Police must obtain a warrant in order to track a person’s cell phone location, according to the Supreme Court of New Jersey. The decision, which received national media attention, may set the bar across the nation, as courts grapple with the issue of cell phone privacy.
While the U.S. Supreme Court has held that police must obtain a warrant to track a suspect using a GPS device, it has not yet considered the use of cell phone data. Therefore, the decision of the Supreme Court of New Jersey is making waves.
The case, State v. Earls, involved a burglary investigation targeting Thomas Earls as the perpetrator. In order to locate him, police requested location data from his cell phone provider, T-Mobile, without securing a warrant. The trace eventually led police to a motel. Police called the room and asked Earls to come outside.
When he opened the door, the police arrested him. The police saw a flat-screen television and several pieces of luggage on the floor of the room, later determined to contain stolen property. Earls sought to suppress the evidence, arguing that the police should have obtained a warrant before tracking his location via cell-tower information.
The NJ Supreme Court ultimately held that the New Jersey Constitution protects an individual’s privacy interest in the location of his or her cell phone. Accordingly, law enforcement must obtain a warrant based on a showing of probable cause, or qualify for an exception to the warrant requirement, to track a suspect using a cell phone.
The justices began their opinion by highlighting that cell phones can reveal a lot about us. "With increasing accuracy, cell phones can now trace our daily movements and disclose not only where individuals are located at a point in time but also which shops, doctors, religious services, and political events they go to, and with whom they choose to associate," Chief Judge Stuart Rabner wrote.
"Yet people do not buy cell phones to serve as tracking devices or reasonably expect them to be used by the government in that way. We therefore find that individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the location of their cell phones under the State Constitution,” the justices concluded.
The state Supreme Court acknowledged that the opinion announces a new rule of law by imposing a warrant requirement. It will take effect in New Jersey next month.
How the decision will reverberate across the country remains to be seen. Federal courts considering warrantless cell phone tracking under the Fourth Amendment are divided. However, as the justices acknowledged in this case, the New Jersey Constitution historically offers greater protection.
The Democratic National Committee is targeting Gov. Chris Christie as the New Jersey executive begins his term serving as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.Read More >
Lance looking to ensure CD 3 ‘remains in Republican hands’ LAWRENCEVILLE – U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7) was no stranger on the campaign trail for Steve Lonegan. When the former Bogota mayor made a bid for the U.S. Senate, Lance traveled outside of his district to celebrate Lonegan’s primary...
BY Giancarlo Tello As an undocumented New Jersey student of 17 years, forced to drop out of Rutgers University because I could not afford the discriminatory out-of-state rate of $27,500 a year, I find Martin Perez’ misguided response to the... Read More >
"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."- Nelson Mandela
Press releases are submitted by PolitickerNJ users, not by staff. They do not represent the viewpoint of PolitickerNJ.com.