Each year, the U.S. Supreme Court decides on a handful of the cases that will be presented before it. The ones they do decide to hear have wide-reaching effects concerning the nature of constitutional rights.
Here is one of the most important Supreme Court cases being decided on in 2018, and how it will impact the future.
Carpenter v. the United States
In 2011, four men were arrested for suspected armed robbery and questioned by the FBI. During the investigation, one of the suspects confessed and gave the Feds his and his cohorts’ cell phone numbers.
The FBI received permission from a judge to obtain transactional records covering the times and locations of all the phone calls made by the robbery suspects over a span of 127 days.
The Stored Communications Act allows the government to collect phone records if the government can show reasonable grounds to assume that those records contain information relevant to a criminal investigation, much in the same way that you can access on demand court records if needed.
Based on the information obtained in the records, the FBI charged Timothy Carpenter, the plaintiff of this case, in connection with the robberies. Carpenter moved to dismiss his charges on the grounds that the FBI’s search of his phone records violated his Fourth Amendment right to privacy because the FBI did not have a warrant.
Essentially, the case rests on the idea that, even though cell phones beam out locational data 24 hours a day, people still have a reasonable expectation of privacy that locations will not be tracked using that data.
The court could hold that there is not an expectation of privacy for transactional records because third-parties (a.k.a. phone companies) collect that data; however, it is likely that the case will be decided in favor of solidifying privacy rights.