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Articles Posted in 4th Amendment and Cell Phone Searches

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Decides Admissibility of Cell Site Location Information

Cell site location information (CSLI) is a highly controversial form of evidence used in courts across the country. CSLI allows cell phone companies to give your location information to law enforcement if you are a suspect in a crime. CSLI raises many privacy and seizure issues, including an issue surrounding the right to privacy. Is CSLI too intrusive, or is it a technology that will lower rates of violent crime?

In Commonwealth v. Louis, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court released a holding that may be detrimental to future cyber-privacy rights.

A sex abuse and Fourth Amendment case is currently pending before the United States Supreme Court. In the case of Ohio v. Deuble, undercover officers viewed a defendant texting on his phone and observed the notifications on the phone to use as cause to arrest the defendant.

This case asks two questions; the first question being whether probable cause existed under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to detain a person suspected of soliciting sexual activity from an undercover officer posing as a minor through social medial where the person’s identity is corroborated through the person’s actions.

In this case, the Respondent never actually “met” the “teenage girl” he was sexting with online. But, the Respondent agreed to meet the law enforcement officer posing as a minor for sexual activity and was the only person observed at the agreed meeting location using his cell phone as the law enforcement officer posing as the minor sent communications to the suspect through a social media application.

What type of cell phone information can the police obtain without a warrant?  This is an important question under the 4th amendment that the Massachusetts Supreme Court recently addressed.  Nowadays, nobody leaves their cell-phones out of their sight, and a cell phone is almost an extension of a person’s body.  However, inside of your smartphone are powerful location tracking services, that “ping” your location whenever you are near a cell tower.  The use of this data in criminal cases is controversial, and many would consider it an invasion of privacy.  The Supreme Judicial Court recently decided a murder case involving cell site location information (CSLI) in Commonwealth v. Wilkerson.

What happened in Wilkerson?

The victim in this case was twenty-three year old Kristopher Rosa, who was a longtime rival of one of the defendant’s high school friends, Rhandisyn Lawrence.  Lawrence and the victim had a rivalry that apparently stemmed from both of them dating the same woman, Mendes, who the victim later had a child with.  In 2011, Lawrence and the defendant, Wilkerson, chased Rosa in cars when Rosa and his girlfriend were on the way to his mother’s house.  He was shot in the chest while still driving and pronounced dead from a gunshot wound.  The defendant was convicted of first degree murder of Rosa two years after the incident, when the defendant’s girlfriend called the police.

Does a Defendant Have Standing to Challenge a Warrantless Search of a Co-Defendant’s Cellphone?

   The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral arguments in a case on November 2nd addressing who has standing to challenge the illegal search of a phone.  Does a person sending a text message have standing to challenge the illegal search of a phone.

This issue came up in the case of Commonwealth v. Delgado-Rivera.  This case is on appeal from Superior Court allowing a Motion to Suppress on behalf of Mr. Jorge Delgado-Rivera. The issue in this case is whether the trial court erred in ruling that Mr. Delgado-Rivera has standing to challenge a warrantless search of a Co-Defendant’s cellphone on the grounds that Mr. Delgado-Rivera had sent the Co-Defendant text messages.  Standing means does a person have a right to have the court hear their claim that their 4th Amendment rights were violated.  Simply put, this means did the person have a expectation of privacy that society deems reasonable.  This case is very important as more and more information is shared over technology.

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