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On August 5, 2015 the Fourth Circuit created a major ripple in Fourth Amendment law by ruling that warrantless access to cell site location information (CSLI) over a lengthy period amounted to an unconstitutional search in United States v. Graham. While the Fourth Court ultimately upheld the defendants’ convictions by applying the Fourth Amendment’s “Good Faith” exception, the ruling created a clear split from the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits, making consideration of the issue by the Supreme Court much more likely.

This article focuses on the facts and the Fourth Amendment arguments of the majority, concurring and dissenting opinions in Graham. It also looks at potential implications for other services that obtain metadata similar to CSLI. Finally, it concludes that, for the time being, warrants should not be needed to access historical cell site data in New York, but that in other jurisdictions where there is no bright-line rule, it may be best to err on the side of caution and obtain a warrant.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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