In 2011, without getting a probable cause warrant, the government obtained several months’ worth of cell phone location records for suspects in a criminal investigation in Detroit. For one suspect, Timothy Carpenter, the records revealed 12,898 separate points of location data. For another suspect, Timothy Sanders, the government got 23,034 separate location points—an average of 261 each day.

After Mr. Carpenter and Mr. Sanders were convicted at trial, based in part on the cell phone location evidence, they appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The ACLU, along with the ACLU of Michigan, Brennan Center, Center for Democracy & Technology, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, filed an amicus brief arguing that the government violated the Fourth Amendment when it obtained the location records from the defendants’ wireless carriers without a warrant.

After a divided panel of the Sixth Circuit held that no warrant is required under the Fourth Amendment, the ACLU joined Mr. Carpenter’s defense attorney in filing a petition for review by the Supreme Court. In June 2017, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. 

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