Cell phone location information

Carpenter v. United States, 585 U.S. __ (2018)
A warrant is required to obtain a suspect's historical cell phone location information. 
An "order issued under § 2703(d) of the [Stored Communications] Act, [ 18 U.S.C.S. § 2703(d)] is not a permissible mechanism for accessing historical cell-site records."

Before compelling a wireless carrier to turn over a subscriber’s cell-site location information, the government’s obligation is a familiar one: get a warrant.

Comm. v. Almonor, 482 Mass. 35 (2019)
Real-time "pinging" of a cell phone by a service provider at the request of police is a search under Article 14 of the Mass. Constitution, and so normally will require a warrant.

Comm. v. Augustine, 467 Mass. 230 (2014)
A warrant is generally required for historical cell site location information (CSLI). This information is a business record of the service provider, but the user of the phone still has a reasonable expectation of privacy in it.

Comm. v. Estabrook, 472 Mass. 852 (2015).
A "request for historical CSLI [cellular site location information] for a period covering six hours or less does not require a search warrant in addition to a [18 USC] § 2703(d) order....This exception to the warrant requirement for CSLI applies only to 'telephone call' CSLI,..., and not to 'registration' CSLI. 'Telephone call' CSLI indicates the 'approximate physical location . . . of a cellular telephone only when a telephone call is made or received by that telephone.' ...By contrast, 'registration' CSLI 'provides the approximate physical location of a cellular telephone every seven seconds unless the telephone is 'powered off,' regardless of whether any telephone call is made to or from the telephone.'

Comm. v. Fredericq, 482 Mass. 70 (2019)
A passenger in a car had automatic standing to challenge the warrantless search of another's cell phone location because police knew that he was in car with murder suspect whose movements were being tracked through CSLI of another person's cell phone for more than six days.

Comm. v. Lugo, 482 Mass. 94 (2019)
Defendant did not have standing to challenge the search of another person's cell phone location information where police did not know they were together, and "the period of the search - less than two hours - was not sufficiently significant to allow the defendant standing." 

Cell phone data

Com. v. Delgado-Rivera, 487 Mass. 551 (2021)
A person has "no reasonable expectation of privacy... in the text messages sent by him that were stored on a cellular telephone belonging to, and possessed by, another person."

Com. v. Dorelas, 473 Mass. 496 (2016)
Police armed with a warrant to search a defendant's cell phone for communications were also permitted to search photograph files on the phone.

Com. v. Feliz, 486 Mass. 510 (2020)
Given the defendant's use of devices to share child pornography over the Internet, a condition of probation allowing the probation department to inspect and search any electronic device was reasonably related to the Commonwealth's probationary goals. This condition only allows searches of the defendant's electronic devices for child pornography, not his home or person, and not for other subjects.

Com. v. Fencher, 95 Mass. App. Ct. 618 (2019)
Seizure before consent. The court concluded in this case, that "the seizure of the defendant's cell phone was supported by probable cause and that the defendant's subsequent consent to search was free and voluntary."

Com. v. Jones, 481 Mass. 540 (2019)
"When the Commonwealth seeks a Gelfgatt order compelling a defendant to decrypt an electronic device by entering a password, art. 12 requires that, for the foregone conclusion to apply, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knows the password.

Com. v. Shipps, 97 Mass. App. Ct 32 (2020)
Constitutionality of a cell phone search by a probation officer pursuant to a condition of probation.

Com. v. Snow, 486 Mass. 582 (2021)
Provides additional guidance on the proper scope of cell phone search warrants, including particularity and time restrictions.

Com. v. White, 475 Mass. 583 (2016)
"Probable cause to search or seize a person's cellular telephone may not be based solely on an officer's opinion that the device is likely to contain evidence of the crime under investigation... also ... in these circumstances, the Commonwealth has not... met its burden of demonstrating that the delay of sixty-eight days between the seizure and the application for a search warrant was reasonable."

Riley v. California, 573 US 373 (2014). 
Warrantless search of cell phone incident to arrest is unconstitutional. "The police generally may not, without a warrant, search digital information on a cell phone seized from an individual who has been arrested."



Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only


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Last updated: June 8, 2021