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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Cheng, Wesley, "Warrantless Access to Cell Site Location Information Takes a Hit in the Fourth Circuit: The Implications of United States v. Graham for Law Enforcement" (2015). Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity (Inactive). 96.