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U.S. Third Circuit Rules Cell Phone Location Searches Do Not Require Probable Cause

The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a U.S. Magistrate Judge's ruling that prosecutors seeking cell site location information (CSLI) need probable cause to get a warrant for those records. In an opinion filed on September 7, 2010, the Court found that the Stored Communications Act (SCA) allows law enforcement to access cell phone users locations if they meet a lower standard. To satisfy the burden for issuing an order to produce those records, prosecutors need only make a showing of "specific and articulable facts...that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the information sought ...[is] relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation." Judge Delores Sloviter remanded the case to the Magistrate, finding that the Magistrate had not analyzed whether the government had made this showing. The Court also held that, after the government has satisfied its burden of proof, the Magistrate may still conclude that a warrant is necessary. If the warrant is necessary, then the government will be held to a probable cause standard.

Third Circuit rules warrant may be required to collect cell phone location data, Ann Riley, jurist.org, September 8, 2010