Hotline Ping: Harmonizing Contemporary Cell Phone Technology with Traditional Fourth Amendment Protections
Hotline Ping : Harmonizing Contemporar y Cell Phone Technolog y with Traditional Fourth Amendment Protections
Brianne M. Chevalier 0 1 2 3 4
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2 Roger Williams University School of Law, Candidate for Juris Doctor , 2017
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4 Chevalier, Brianne M. (2017) "Hotline Ping: Harmonizing Contemporary Cell Phone Technology with Traditional Fourth Amendment Protections," Roger Williams University Law Review: Vol. 22 : Iss. 1 , Article 8. Available at:
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Hotline Ping: Harmonizing
Contemporary Cell Phone Technology
with Traditional Fourth Amendment
Brianne M. Chevalier
“The judiciary must not allow the ubiquity of
technology—which threatens to cause greater and greater
intrusions into our private lives—to erode our
A murder has taken place and the police have a suspect who
they believe is responsible for the crime. The government wants
to place the suspect at the scene of the crime, at the time the
crime occurred. Unfortunately, there were no eyewitnesses to
identify the suspect, so the government needs an alternative way
to prove that its suspect was present at the scene. In order to do
so, the government files for a court order that will allow it to
Candidate for Juris Doctor, Roger Williams University School of Law, 2017.
I am grateful to Professor Emily J. Sack for her wisdom, guidance, and
thoughtful suggestions through the entirety of the writing process. Also, to
my parents and my sister, thank you for your endless love and
support. Lastly, a special thank you to my mom for pushing me to attend law
school and for listening to my triumphs and grievances throughout.
1. United States v. Davis, 785 F.3d 498, 533 (
11th Cir. 2015
compel the cell phone service provider to turn over cell site
location information from the suspect’s cell phone records. This
information would include the phone numbers the suspect
contacted or was contacted by, as well as the location of the
suspect when these connections were made. Should the
government be permitted to obtain this type of information from
cell service providers (e.g. Verizon, T-Mobile, or Sprint) without a
search warrant based on probable cause, and thereby create a
play-by-play of a person’s location—including, but not limited to,
the location where the crime occurred—over a given period of
time? Most federal appellate courts have answered this question
affirmatively.2 Under the Fourth Amendment, however,
government acquisition of cell phone location records from cell
service providers should be considered a search because
individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy in this
information.3 Therefore, obtaining this type of information
without a warrant based on probable cause presumably violates
the Fourth Amendment.4
As technology advances, so too must the application of the
Fourth Amendment, specifically with regard to government
procurement of cell phone location records from cell service
providers. Until May 2016,5 federal circuit courts were split on
the issues of whether (1) obtaining historical cell phone location
records from service providers is a “search” under the Fourth
Amendment, and (2) if so, whether a “reasonable search” requires
the government to obtain a search warrant based on probable
cause.6 Courts face the challenge of determining the legal
standard that law enforcement must meet in order to require the
cell service providers to disclose information.7
Part I of this Comment will introduce the basic function of cell
towers and records, describe the difference between historical and
real-time information, and provide a cursory review of the
statutory landscape. Part II will discuss relevant Fourth
Amendment case law that supplies the framework for determining
when there is a search and, if so, when a warrant based on
probable cause is required. Part III will focus on the most recent
United States Courts of Appeals cases which have occasionally
fallen on both sides of the fence regarding the questions of
whether a search has occurred and whether a warrant is required.
Finally, Part IV will address the strengths and weaknesses of both
sides of the arguments. This section will also assert and explain
why government acquisition of cell site location information
(CSLI) is a search, why a warrant based on probable cause is
required, and finally why the Stored Communications Act (SCA),
which governs court orders required for attainment of this
information, is unconstitutional.
I. CELL PHONE TOWER FUNCTIONS, DATA BASICS, AND APPLICABLE
The technologies employed in devices people use every day to
work and function in society are often a mystery to those who use
such devices. This section explains how the government acquires
historical CSLI by connecting to cell towers. Understanding this
process is crucial to fully grasp why the government’s acquisition
of historical CSLI is a search that requires a warrant based on
probable cause. Additionally, this explanation is important to
understand because the standard for acquisition of this
information is currently lower under the SCA than what the
warrant requirement entails, and is therefore unconstitutional.
A. Cell Phone Tower Operations
Cell phones are supported by a network of cell towers that
relay messages from the user, through the service carrier, to the
and Historical Cell Site Data, 90 NOTRE DAME L. REV. 2039, 2039–40 (2015).
7. See Peter A. Crusco, Cell Tower Dumps and the Fourth Amendment,
N.Y.L.J. ONLINE (June 24, 2014).
intended recipient.8 In 1985, there were just 900 cell phone
towers in the United States;9 however, as of March 2015, the
presence of cell towers has increased drastically and there are now
over 205,000 throughout the country.10 These cell towers are
placed at various locations throughout a service provider’s
coverage area.11 A tower is in constant contact with activated,
turned-on cell phones within its proximity so that calls and
messages are relayed instantly.12 The cell phone connects to a cell
tower whenever a call or text message is sent or received by the
cell phone.13 The phone will usually connect with, or “ping,” the
closest cell site where it has the strongest signal.14 As a cell
phone is physically moved to various locations, it “hops” from
tower to tower, potentially allowing law enforcement to track the
movements of the phone.15 The accuracy of the location data
depends on the size of the geographical coverage range of the cell
sites.16 This Comment exclusively addresses the pinging of cell
towers, and not a cell phone’s Global Positioning System (GPS)
function that is a separate and distinct feature.17
Once the nearest cell tower is identified, CSLI can be used to
determine the location of the cell phone at the particular point in
time that the connection is made.18 CSLI consists of the dialed
digits of calls to and from the telephone number, and the locations
and sectors of the cell towers used at the time of the call’s origin
and termination.19 Law enforcement officers often use CSLI to
develop a list of suspects that were in a crime area at a given time,
or to determine that a specific suspect was in an area at the time a
crime occurred.20 Specifically, officers can request that a service
provider turn over location data for a suspect over a set period of
time—this is called historical CSLI.21
There is an important distinction to be made between
historical CSLI and real-time information. This Comment will
specifically discuss law enforcements’ need for a warrant when
seeking historical CSLI. Historical CSLI includes records that are
already created and maintained by a third-party telephone
company22 and precise data regarding date and time of cell calls,
and location of a cell phone.23 Moreover, the records show
incoming and outgoing telephone numbers that connect with the
cell tower, including voice calls and text messages.24 Historical
CSLI also includes how long these communications lasted as well
as the cell towers used at the beginning and at the end of the
Conversely, real-time data is information collected at the
moment in time it occurs.26 The distinction between these two
types of data is important because real-time data raises distinct
issues, such as exigency,27 that historical data does not. To
ensure constitutionality, procurement of historical data requires a
showing of probable cause, which the SCA does not require.
B. The Stored Communications Act
The SCA is the federal statute that governs historical cell site
location information cases.28 It allows law enforcement to use
“‘stored user account information compiled by third parties in the
ordinary course of business’” without having to prove probable
cause.29 Specifically, the SCA provides:
A court order for disclosure . . . may be issued by any
court that is a court of competent jurisdiction and shall
issue only if the governmental entity offers specific and
articulable facts showing that there are reasonable
grounds to believe that the contents of a wire or electronic
communication, or the records or other information
sought, are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal
The government can obtain this information by filing for a
court order under § 2703(d) requesting information from cell
service providers.31 Court orders differ from search warrants in
that the required legal standard to acquire an SCA court order—
specific and articulable facts—is much lower than the requirement
of probable cause to obtain a search warrant.32 This lower SCA
standard poses a great threat to an individual’s Fourth
Amendment right; however, while the SCA standard is lower than
that for a search warrant, the SCA raised the bar for what is
required by the government to obtain information from third
parties via a subpoena.33 For example, “the government routinely
issues subpoenas to third parties to produce a wide variety of
business records, such as credit card statements, bank statements,
hotel bills, purchase orders, and billing invoices.”34 With the
enactment of the SCA, Congress demands more information than
what is required for a subpoena before the government can
retrieve the telephone records from a cell service provider,35 but,
the SCA standard is lower than what is required to obtain a
search warrant based on probable cause.36
Although the SCA standard is lower than probable cause, it is
worth mentioning that it does provide individuals with certain
privacy protections.37 For example, the SCA “generally prohibits
telephone companies from voluntarily disclosing such records to a
‘governmental entity.’”38 Among other protections, the SCA
provides penalties and remedies for violations of the Act where
there was improper disclosure of records.39 If a judge issues a
court order, however, the cell service provider must give out the
information requested without being required to provide notice to
the customer.40 The unconstitutionality of the “specific and
articulable facts” standard, which is a lower legal standard than
that of probable cause, is one of the major concerns regarding the
gathering of historical CSLI.41
II. FOURTH AMENDMENT HISTORY AND UNITED STATES COURTS’ TAKE
ON HISTORICAL CELL SITE DATA
A. Was There a “Search” Under the Fourth Amendment?
The Fourth Amendment guarantees “the right of the people to
be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against
unreasonable searches and seizures.”42 In analyzing a Fourth
Amendment claim, the reviewing court first determines whether
or not a search occurred.43 If there was a search, probable cause
and a warrant were required.44 Then, the reviewing court must
determine whether an exception to the warrant requirement
The United States Supreme Court decision in Katz v. United
States is controlling when analyzing the gathering of historical
CSLI because the determination as to whether a “search” has
occurred turns on whether a cell phone user has a reasonable
expectation of privacy.46 Katz established that the scope of the
Fourth Amendment is no longer determined by the absence or
presence of a physical intrusion.47 In a concurring opinion,
Justice Harlan advanced a two-part test, which now guides Fourth
Amendment analysis to determine whether a search occurred.48
The first prong of the test focuses on whether the individual had a
subjective expectation of privacy in the object of the challenged
search.49 If so, the court then analyzes whether society is willing
to objectively recognize that expectation as reasonable.50 In order
to succeed in claiming that an intrusion was unconstitutional, a
party must satisfy both parts of this test.51 As discussed below,52
the government’s procurement of historical CSLI is a search under
the Fourth Amendment and consequently requires a warrant
based on probable cause.
B. The Good-Faith Exception to the Exclusionary Rule
If a search has occurred, probable cause and a search warrant
are required absent an exception. If there is no search warrant
and no exception applies, then the Fourth Amendment is violated
and the evidence obtained is subject to the exclusionary rule.53
Exceptions to the warrant requirement include the good-faith
exception,54 which is of particular importance in situations
involving warrantless government acquisition of historical CSLI.55
The good-faith exception applies when “law enforcement
[officers] reasonably rel[y] on (1) an enacted statute, unless that
statute is clearly unconstitutional; (2) a search warrant or other
court order issued by a neutral magistrate, unless issuance of the
order is clearly defective; or (3) binding appellate precedent.”56
For example, the Fourth Circuit originally asserted in Graham I57
that, although the government violated the Fourth Amendment in
obtaining historical CSLI without a warrant based on probable
cause, the evidence obtained was not suppressed because the
government acted in good-faith reliance on court orders issued
under the SCA.58
As previously mentioned, and more thoroughly discussed
below,59 the standard required for a court order under the SCA is
far lower than that for probable cause. This Comment argues that
this sub-constitutional standard should not encompass the same
good-faith exception. The rights under the Fourth Amendment
are protected under the probable cause requirements, but the
lowering of constitutional safeguards in the issuance of court
orders inevitably mirrors a lowered protection of rights in this
circumstance, which is unconstitutional.60 Therefore, the
goodfaith exception should not apply, as it is not reasonable for the
government to rely on such a court order that was not obtained
based on the constitutionally required standard.
C. The Third-Party Doctrine
Another concept generally applied to searches involving cell
phones is the “third-party doctrine,” which establishes that “a
person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he
voluntarily turns over to third parties.”61 Courts have interpreted
the third-party doctrine to support the argument that individual
cell phone users assume the risk that information will be disclosed
to law enforcement when using their cellular devices.62
Furthermore, some courts have doubted that “‘people in general
entertain any actual expectation of privacy in the numbers they
dial’ because ‘[a]ll telephone users realize that they must ‘convey’
phone numbers to the telephone company . . . .’”63 The third-party
doctrine has proven controversial when applied to cell phone
location data, however, as many have debated whether this
doctrine is still viable in light of the major technological and social
changes over the past several decades.64
In contrast, some courts have considered the proposition that
the doctrine does not apply to cell phone location data because the
cell phone user does not voluntarily convey their location
information to their service provider.65 This idea is based on the
proposition that “[c]ell phone use is not only ubiquitous in our
society today but, at least for an increasing portion of our society,
it has become essential to full cultural and economic
participation.”66 This proposition is based on the idea that
“[p]eople cannot be deemed to have volunteered to forfeit
expectations of privacy by simply seeking active participation in
society through use of their cell phones.”67 Because cell phone
users are not voluntarily conveying information to third parties,
the third-party doctrine is not applicable; therefore, this
information demands Fourth Amendment protection from
III. APPLICATION OF THE FOURTH AMENDMENT TO ACQUISITION OF
CELL SITE LOCATION INFORMATION
Cell phone records are useful to criminal investigations
because they reveal information that shows which cell towers a
particular cell phone was closest to in a given period of time—
information generally used to place a suspect at a crime scene.69
Courts disagree on whether or not individuals have a reasonable
expectation of privacy regarding their cell phone records or if
individuals voluntarily disclose this information through the use
of their cell phones.70 Specifically, there has been disagreement
among the courts as to whether it is a search to obtain historical
CSLI from service providers, and, if so, whether a warrant based
on probable cause is required.71 These cases do not involve a GPS
device, physical trespass, or real-time or prospective cell tower
location information.72 Rather, they narrowly involve only
government access to the existing and legitimate business records
that a third-party telephone company has already created and
maintained, and historical information about which cell tower
locations connected the cell phone in question during a given time
In In re United States for Historical Cell Site Data, the Fifth
Circuit held that using the SCA standard—allowing orders that
are based on specific and articulable facts—rather than a Fourth
Amendment probable cause standard is constitutionally
permissible under the Fourth Amendment because people do not
have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their cell phone
records.74 The Eleventh Circuit reached a similar conclusion in
United States v. Davis, holding that no “search” had occurred
because the individuals did not possess a reasonable expectation
of privacy.75 The court further held that the SCA standard
comports with Fourth Amendment principles and is therefore
Conversely, in Graham I, the Fourth Circuit held “that the
government’s procurement and inspection of [the suspects’]
historical CSLI was a search, and the government violated [the
suspects’] Fourth Amendment rights by engaging in this search
without first securing a judicial warrant based on probable
cause.”77 The Fourth Circuit has since reversed this decision in
A. Is Government Acquisition of Historical CSLI a Search Under the Fourth Amendment?
1. In re Historical Cell Site Data
In In re Historical Cell Site Data, the Fifth Circuit held that
no search had occurred because the Fourth Amendment protects
only reasonable expectations of privacy; therefore, there was no
violation of the Fourth Amendment under the third-party
doctrine.79 The court, by employing the two-part Katz analysis,
73. See id.
74. 724 F.3d 600, 615 (5th Cir. 2013).
75. 785 F.3d at 518.
77. 796 F.3d at 361.
78. 824 F.3d 421, 424 (
11th Cir. 2016
) (en banc).
79. 724 F.3d at 615. In this case, the United States filed three
applications under § 2703(d) of the . . . SCA, seeking evidence relevant to
three separate criminal investigations. Each application requested a court
order to compel the cell phone service provider for a particular cell phone to
produce sixty days of historical cell site data and other subscriber
information for that phone.
Id. at 602 (citations omitted).
determined that no warrant was necessary since there was no
reasonable expectation of privacy.80 In addressing the expectation
of privacy, the court explained that “‘[w]hat a person knowingly
exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a
subject of Fourth Amendment protection.’”81 Relying heavily on
the third-party doctrine, the court agreed with the argument that
cell phone users knowingly convey information about their
location to their service providers when they make a call and that,
even with that knowledge, they voluntarily continue to make such
calls foregoing any reasonable expectation of privacy.82 The court
relied on Smith v. Maryland, which noted that all subscribers
recognize that the phone company controls the equipment that
allows their calls to be completed and that the service providers
have records for numbers that they dial.83 The court further
explained that even if subscribers do not have this “common
knowledge,” the government presented evidence that the contract
between providers and subscribers expressly stated that a
provider both uses and collects a subscriber’s location information
to route the cell phone calls.84 Additionally, the court reasoned
that the government does not require a member of the public to
own or carry a cell phone; rather the use of his or her phone is
The court in In re Historical Cell Site Data particularly
addressed the question of whether the “specific and articulable
facts” standard required under the SCA for a court order is
constitutional.86 The court concluded that, by enacting the SCA,
Congress crafted a legislative solution to the privacy concerns that
develop with advances in technology.87 The court explained that
the SCA is constitutional because cases interpreting the Fourth
[do] not recognize a situation where a conventional order
for a third party’s voluntarily created business records
80. See id. at 608–12.
81. Id. at 609 (quoting Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 351 (1967))
(alteration in original).
82. Id. at 612.
83. Id. (quoting Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735, 742–
84. Id. at 613 (quoting California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35, 40 (1988)).
86. Id. at 608.
87. Id. at 614.
transforms into a Fourth Amendment search or seizure
when the records cover more than some specified time
period or shed light on a target’s activities in an area
traditionally protected from governmental intrusion.88
As explained below,89 the logic employed by this court is flawed
considering the relevant and essential role that cell phones have
in peoples’ lives today, as well as the lack of voluntariness
employed by cell phone users.90
United States v. Davis
Like the Fifth Circuit, the Eleventh Circuit in United States v.
Davis held that government acquisition of historical CSLI is not a
search, and therefore the SCA standard is constitutional under
Fourth Amendment principles.91 Furthermore, the Eleventh
Circuit agreed that there is no subjective or objective reasonable
expectation of privacy in the historical CSLI records and
reiterated the same reasoning provided by the Fifth Circuit.92
The court explained that “any arguable ‘search’ should be resolved
in favor of the government” in cases such as this because Congress
served substantial government interests by enacting the SCA.93
The Eleventh Circuit evaluated the SCA standard in a
virtually identical way to that of the Fifth Circuit.94 The court
explained that the SCA did not lower the bar for Fourth
Amendment purposes, but rather requiring a court order raised
the bar from an ordinary subpoena to one with additional privacy
protections.95 As explained in more depth below,96 the evaluation
should not be one that considers how the standard essentially
could be worse; the analysis should be strictly focused on whether
or not the standard comports with the protections that the Fourth
The Eleventh Circuit attempted to support its reasoning that
historical CSLI is very different from GPS data because it does not
give as precise of a location as a GPS does.97 Moreover, while that
may be true in certain areas, it is fact-specific based on a cell
phone’s location.98 Where more towers exist, and as technology
continues to advance, a more accurate location will be obtained.99
Regardless, the court reasoned that there is no reasonable
expectation of privacy in this information and that the
information serves a compelling government interest.100 And,
even if individuals are not voluntarily conveying this information
and establish a reasonable expectation of privacy in the
information, the same information could be obtained and be just
as useful to the government’s interest if a warrant was
3. United States v. Graham I & II
Conversely, the Fourth Circuit, in Graham I, decided in 2015
“that the government’s procurement of the historical CSLI at
issue . . . was an unreasonable search.”102 However, the Fourth
Circuit reheard the case en banc in 2016 and reversed the original
panel’s decision.103 Nonetheless, the panel decision in Graham I
provides a thoughtful and thorough analysis, outlining various
applicable arguments on the topic. It is also a topic that is likely
not yet through running its course in the court system.104
95. Davis, 785 F.3d at 505–06.
96. See infra Part IV.D.
97. Davis, 785 F.3d at 515.
99. Id. at 521.
100. Id. at 517–18.
101. See id. at 518.
102. Graham I, 796 F.3d 332, 343 (4th Cir. 2015), rev’d en banc, 824 F.3d
421 (4th Cir. 2016).
103. See Graham II, 824 F.3d 421, 424 (4th Cir. 2016) (en banc).
104. Although Graham I, which best supports the thesis of this paper,
After the defendant had been arrested for allegedly
committing a series of armed robberies, a detective found two cell
phones in the defendant’s truck while executing a valid search
warrant.105 Going beyond the scope of that warrant, however, the
government sought and obtained court orders for disclosure of
historical CSLI for calls and text messages transmitted to and
from the cell phones.106 It then used the court order to obtain
historical CSLI from the cell phone service provider for a 221-day
time period.107 Both the circuit panel in Graham I and the court
in Graham II addressed whether the government’s acquisition of
records without a warrant based on probable cause constituted an
unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment.108
In Graham I, the circuit panel held that people have a
reasonable expectation of privacy in their historical CSLI records
and explained that “the government invades a reasonable
expectation of privacy when it relies upon technology not in
general use to discover the movements of an individual over an
extended period of time.”109 The circuit panel reasoned that
historical CSLI allows the “government to trace the movements of
the cell phone and its user across public and private spaces and
thereby discover the private activities and personal habits of the
user.”110 Additionally, applying the third-party doctrine to
historical CSLI would essentially permit the government to use a
was reheard en banc and overturned, it should be noted that circuit court
cases reheard en banc are attractive candidates for review by the Supreme
Court. Timothy S. Bishop, Jeffrey W. Sarles & Stephen J. Kane, Tips on
Petitioning for and Opposing Certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court, 34
LITIGATION, Winter 2008, at 26, 28. Specifically, one study found that the
Supreme Court is three times as likely to grant a petition for certiorari to a
case that has been heard en banc as it is to grant certiorari petitions
involving panel decisions. Id. It is therefore likely that this issue could be
heard in the United States Supreme Court and therefore using Graham I and
its abundance of credible arguments is both necessary and insightful.
105. Graham I, 796 F.3d at 340.
106. Id. at 341.
108. Id. at 342.
109. Id. at 349.
110. Id. at 345. Consider a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
decision where the court leaves open the possibility that while generally a
search warrant is required, one might not be if the request for historical data
is for “a period of six hours or less.” Commonwealth v. Estabrook, 38 N.E.3d
231, 237 (Mass. 2015).
person’s phone as a tracking device without probable cause.111
Therefore, Graham I determined that the government’s
acquisition of this information was a search as cell phone users
have an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in this
information because of one’s expected privacy in private habits
and personal activities.112
Nevertheless, a circuit split amongst the Fourth, Fifth, and
Eleventh Circuits ended when Graham II was decided. In
Graham II, the court held that the government’s acquisition of
historical CSLI from the defendants’ cell phone provider did not
violate the Fourth Amendment because United States Supreme
Court precedent mandates that the third-party doctrine is
controlling in this instance and an individual does not have a
reasonable expectation of privacy in historical CSLI.113 The court
explained that the provider only receives the historical CSLI
information when a cell phone user’s phone exchanges signals
with the nearest available cell tower and that it is clear that the
user is conveying the information to the service provider.114 The
court also based its holding—that cell phone users voluntarily
convey their historical CSLI to service providers—on the
proposition that cell phone users understand on some level the
basic need to transmit information to the cell service provider in
order for the phone to operate properly.115 The dissenting judge
in Graham II, although recommending that the defendant’s
convictions be affirmed under the exclusionary rule’s good-faith
exception, nevertheless accurately asserted that the Fourth
111. Graham I, 796 F.3d at 357.
112. Id. at 345.
113. 824 F.3d 421, 424–25 (4th Cir. 2016) (en banc). However, as
discussed later in more depth, the Fourth Circuit in Graham II seemed to
suggest that it is likely that the Supreme Court may very well do away with
the third-party doctrine in the future, which would change the outcome of
cases involving the government acquisition of historical CSLI. See id. at 425.
114. Id. at 429. The true issue in this inquiry is not whether the
information is being conveyed, but whether it is voluntary. Id. at 427.
115. See id. at 430. In its reasoning, the court notes that “courts have
attached no constitutional significance to the distinction between records of
incoming versus outgoing phone calls.” Id. at 431. However, perhaps as
technology advances it will become more apparent that (1) individuals need
some form of communicative device such as a cell phone to actively
participate in society, and (2) individuals have no control over their phone
connecting to a signal when someone calls or messages their phone. Perhaps
then may courts begin to make this distinction and realize the lack of
voluntariness involved in conveying historical CSLI to service providers.
Circuit “majority’s determination that there was no Fourth
Amendment violation . . . [is a] conclusion that ‘will have profound
B. If There Was a Search, Is a Warrant Based on Probable Cause
Needed to Legitimize the Search?
Circuit courts are currently in agreement that the
government’s acquisition of historical CSLI from service providers
is not a search and therefore does not require a warrant based on
probable cause.117 The Fourth, Fifth, and Eleventh Circuits have
held that no search has occurred because there is not a reasonable
expectation of privacy in historical CSLI records, so these courts
have not answered the question as to whether a warrant based on
probable cause is required to obtain this information. Because the
circuit panel declared that there was a reasonable expectation of
privacy in this information, and therefore there was a search, the
Graham I court held that a warrant based on probable cause was
required to obtain historical cell site location information.118 As
argued below, when a court does abide by the Fourth Amendment
and declares that a search has occurred, the next logical and
constitutional step should be to require a warrant based on
probable cause because none of the exceptions to the warrant
requirement are applicable.119
IV. ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF AND AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT’S NEED
FOR A WARRANT BASED ON PROBABLE CAUSE TO OBTAIN HISTORICAL
A. Reasonable Subjective and Objective Expectations of Privacy
Where a reasonable expectation of privacy exists, government
116. Id. at 441 n.1 (Wynn, J., dissenting in part and concurring in the
judgment) (quoting Graham I, 796 F.3d at 378 n.1 (Motz, J., dissenting in
part and concurring in the judgment)).
117. The Graham II majority recognizes that this issue may very well be
reconsidered by the United States Supreme Court in the near future at which
time the court could overrule or reject the third-party doctrine and thereby
change the format for deciding this issue. See 824 F.3d at 425 (en banc).
118. 796 F.3d at 360–61. In Graham I, the Court ultimately concluded
that the good-faith exception applied and therefore the data obtained was not
subject to suppression under the exclusionary rule. Id. at 363. However, this
panel was overridden on this issue when the case was reheard en banc.
Graham II, 824 F.3d at 424–25 (en banc).
119. See infra Part IV.
procurement of information is a search. In using historical CSLI
data to track a cell phone’s location, the government uses
technology not available to the general public.120 Additionally,
some courts have put a great emphasis on the extended amount of
time that the government monitors when obtaining the historical
CSLI, suggesting that perhaps a short amount of time would not
require a warrant, but a longer amount could.121 However, while
the increased amount of time and information gathered is
certainly concerning, if an individual has a reasonable expectation
of privacy in their historical CSLI, requiring a warrant should not
hinge on an amount of time. Making a warrant requirement
based on a vague standard will only create more ambiguity in
Society’s reasonable expectation of privacy has changed as
technology has advanced.122 One school of thought asserts that
“[l]aw enforcement tactics must be allowed to advance with
technological changes, in order to prevent criminals from
circumventing the justice system.”123 However, this argument is
groundless. An individual should not be forced to exchange his or
her constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches for
innovations in and use of technology. The Fourth Circuit
eloquently articulated this point in Graham I when it asserted
that “the advent of new technology alone—even major
technological advances—is not a sufficient basis upon which to
infer an equally dramatic shift in people’s privacy
120. See Graham I, 796 F.3d at 349 (“The Government invades a
[person’s] reasonable expectation of privacy when it relies upon technology
not in general use to discover the movements of an individual over an
extended period of time.” (emphasis added)).
121. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Estabrook, 38 N.E.3d 231, 238 (Mass.
122. See In re United States for Historical Cell Site Data, 724 F.3d 600,
614 (5th Cir. 2013). For example, consider how several years ago individuals
could travel through an airport and board an airplane without passing
through a metal detector, taking their shoes off, taking certain items out of
their bags, having their bags screened, or possibly being stopped for further
examination. Today, however, technology has existed long enough to
consider these procedures as normal and routine. Thus, over time an
individual’s expectation of privacy in his or her belongings has been greatly
123. Id. (quoting United States v. Skinner, 690 F.3d 772, 778 (6th Cir.
124. 796 F.3d at 359.
Additionally, the abundance of information revealed through
historical CSLI strongly suggests that there is a reasonable
expectation of privacy in the records. In In re Historical Cell Site
Data, the defense devoted part of its argument “on what
information cell site data reveals—location information” to prove
the unconstitutionality of the SCA standard.125 It also analyzed
the government’s request for the historical CSLI under the
framework of United States Supreme Court precedents on
tracking devices.126 Obtaining historical CSLI and gaining
information from tracking devices are similar in that both produce
location data of an individual for a given amount of time, and both
may track individuals to their home; a place that generally has
been given heightened protections by the courts. Distinct
differences between the two location-gathering strategies,
however, make it even more reasonable that historical CSLI
would be protected under the Fourth Amendment against a
warrantless search, just like the prolonged GPS monitoring of a
The defense also indicated that cell phones can travel places
that cars or containers cannot go or are unlikely to go, which
makes tracking historical CSLI more intrusive than GPS
monitoring.128 For example, while a car may take someone from
one location to another, they could easily get in another vehicle,
take public transportation, or go to an area that may not be
accessible by a car. While a GPS is obviously intrusive, historical
CSLI can reveal just as much, and more, about a person’s
Another common, yet defective, argument against requiring
the government to obtain a warrant before acquisition of historical
CSLI is that the information obtained is much less intrusive than
using a GPS to monitor a person’s movements or examining the
content of an individual’s cell phone. This argument, however,
does not take into consideration the amount of information that
can be discovered from a historical evaluation of an individual’s
CSLI. Justice Sotomayor persuasively exhibited this in her
concurrence in United States v. Jones, when she described what is
724 F.3d at 608.
See United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945, 949 (2012).
In re Historical Cell Site Data, 724 F.3d at 609.
known as the “Mosaic Theory.”129 She posits, “I would ask
whether people reasonably expect that their movements will be
recorded and aggregated in a manner that enables the
Government to ascertain, more or less at will, their political and
religious beliefs, sexual habits, and so on.”130 As technology
advances and more cell towers are constructed, the precision of
the location that historical CSLI will be able to provide to the
government will essentially paint a picture of an individual’s life.
It is undeniable that this type of surveillance of an individual is
neither subjectively nor objectively reasonable.
B. The Third-Party Doctrine Is “Ill Suited to the Digital Age”131
Parties have taken several different approaches in arguing
about whether the government needs a warrant based on probable
cause to obtain historical CSLI from cell service providers. For
example, in In re Historical Cell Site Data, the government argued
that cell phone users voluntarily convey their location to their
service providers when they make a call and that they nonetheless
voluntarily continue to make such calls.132 In opposition, the
ACLU contended that a cell phone user is not voluntarily
conveying his location because “[w]hen a cell phone user makes or
receives a call, there is no indication to the user that making or
receiving that call will . . . locate the caller” and therefore a user
cannot voluntarily convey something he does not know he has.133
The court declared that cell phone users do voluntarily convey
their information because they understand that their cell phones
must send a signal to a nearby tower in order to connect a call.134
Absent clear reasoning, the Fifth Circuit agreed with the
government’s argument that the conveyance of information is
voluntary.135 The court asserted that the cell phone user is
sending the information so that the provider can perform the
129. Jones, 132 S. Ct. at 956 (Sotomayor, J., concurring).
130. Id. (Sotomayor, J., concurring).
131. “Justice Sotomayor has suggested that the [third-party] doctrine is
‘ill suited to the digital age, in which people reveal a great deal of information
about themselves to third parties in the course of carrying out mundane
tasks.’” Graham II, 824 F.3d 421, 438 (4th Cir. 2016) (en banc) (quoting
Jones, 132 S. Ct. at 957 (Sotomayor, J., concurring)).
132. 724 F.3d at 612.
133. Id. (alteration in original).
134. Id. at 613.
service of connecting calls made to other users.136 Nonetheless, it
is very important to note that cell towers are pinged when cell
phone users make calls or send text messages, as well as when
they receive calls and messages.137 Therefore, the cell user is not
technically conveying the information to the cell providers
themselves simply by possessing a phone and a cell phone user is
certainly not voluntarily turning over this information. It is not
constitutionally sound to “force an ill-fitting presumption of
voluntariness in order to strip Fourth Amendment protection from
The Fourth Circuit correctly held in Graham I that it was
clear that cell phone users do not voluntarily convey historical
CSLI to service providers.139 The Graham I opinion explained
that individuals are not conveying this information to service
providers; rather the service provider automatically generates this
information, both “with and without the user’s active
participation.”140 Furthermore, the Graham I court made an
important distinction between historical CSLI records and the
records that were involved in Smith and Miller, explaining that
unlike phone numbers dialed or bank records created,
respectively, historical CSLI is neither tangible nor visible to a cell
phone user.141 Common sense would lead one to believe that
something so intangible that an individual does not have the
option but to technically “convey” would not be subject to the
third-party doctrine as it is clearly not voluntary.
A cell phone user’s knowledge about how the cell signals and
towers work is not what is at issue in this particular argument.142
Rather, the issue is whether the information is being conveyed to
the service providers voluntarily. For instance, many individuals
are aware that the government is capable of listening to phone
137. See Graham I, 796 F.3d 332, 355 (4th Cir. 2015), rev’d en banc, 824
F.3d 421 (4th Cir. 2016).
138. Graham II, 824 F.3d 421, 443 n.3 (4th Cir. 2016) (en banc) (Wynn, J.,
139. Graham I, 796 F.3d at 353.
140. Id. at 354.
141. Id. at 355.
142. See Graham II, 824 F.3d at 445 (en banc) (Wynn, J., dissenting)
(“[E]ven if cell phone customers have a vague awareness that their location
affects the number of ‘bars’ on their phone, they surely do not know which
cell phone tower their call will be routed through . . . .” (citation omitted)).
conversations, but that does not mean that individuals do not
have a reasonable expectation of privacy in those conversations.
On the contrary, the term “voluntary” and what constitutes as a
voluntary conveyance is the major point of discrepancy in
determining whether cell phone users have a reasonable
expectation of privacy in their historical CSLI. If cell phone users
truly convey their location voluntarily to cell service providers,
they would not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and
consequently there would be no search and no warrant
requirement. However, individuals cannot expect to have
voluntarily conveyed information via a device that is crucial to
active participation in today’s society.143
Moreover, this argument is strongly supported by statistics of
both the percentage of Americans who own cell phones, as well as
the percentage of Americans living in households with only
wireless telephone service. About ninety-seven percent of adults
had a cell phone in 2013, whereas about forty-seven percent of
households have only wireless telephone service in 2016.144 The
high percentage of adults who possess cell phones proves that, for
better or for worse, these devices have become an integral part of
life.145 It is at odds with common sense to conclude that a person
voluntarily conveys information through a mechanism that
requires them to do so in order to function as a member of society.
Once a person’s choice becomes so drastic that it is between
participation in society or protecting their Fourth Amendment
right, the choice is no longer voluntary. The third-party doctrine
is employed to restrict Fourth Amendment protections to
situations where privacy claims are reasonable, not to diminish
Fourth Amendment protections where developing technology
143. See Graham I, 796 F.3d at 355–56 (citing Riley v. California, 134 S.
Ct. 2473, 2484 (2014); City of Ontario v. Quon, 560 U.S. 746, 760 (2010)).
144. Maranda Gibson, Cell Phone Statistics: Updated 2013, ARKADIN
COLLABORATION SERVICES (Jan. 23, 2014), https://www.accuconference.com/
blog/cell-phone-statistics-updated-2013/; Kyley McGeeney, Pew Research
Center will call 7
5% Cellphones for Surveys in 2016
, PEW RESEARCH CENTER
145. In addition to communication, cell phones are important because
they save people money. Importance of Mobile Phone Technology, MY ESSAY
POINT (Feb. 1, 2015),
http://myessaypoint.com/importance-of-mobile-phonetechnology. They are an all-in-one device, thus helping businesses function
more efficiently, as well as ensuring personal safety. Id.
provides new ways to obtain private information.146 Since cell
phone users do not voluntarily convey historical CSLI to service
providers, “the third-party doctrine alone cannot resolve whether
the government . . . conducted a Fourth Amendment ‘search.’”147
Rather, an independent Fourth Amendment evaluation is needed
to determine whether “the government violates a subjective
expectation of privacy that society recognizes as reasonable” by
obtaining historical CSLI.148
Importantly, while the court in Graham II did reverse the
decision in Graham I, the court explicitly stated that “[t]he
Supreme Court may in the future limit, or even eliminate, the
third-party doctrine.”149 The court also stated that “unless and
until the Supreme Court holds, [it is] bound by the contours of the
third-party doctrine . . . .”150 It is not unreasonable to assume
based on the language of the Fourth Circuit and its multiple
references to the day that the United States Supreme Court
eliminates the third-party doctrine, that the court in Graham II
chose to include that language to acknowledge the obvious
shortcomings of the third-party doctrine. Additionally, the Fourth
Circuit likely used this language to suggest that if the United
States Supreme Court did make the decision to do away with the
doctrine that it would not be considered irrational. Moreover, it
could also be inferred from this statement that the court would
have come to a different conclusion on whether an individual has
a reasonable expectation of privacy in historical CSLI if the
thirdparty doctrine were not controlling precedent.
Historical CSLI is Only Available Through Technological
The Fourth Circuit persuasively stated: “The Supreme Court
has recognized an individual’s privacy interests in comprehensive
accounts of her movements, in her location, and in the location of
her personal property in private spaces, particularly when such
information is available only through technological means not in
use by the general public.”151 This argument has great weight
here. Historical CSLI allows the government to place an
individual in a variety of places, including private places such as
the home.152 This type of search should be granted a great deal of
protection because like United States v. Karo153 and Kyllo v.
United States,154 it has the effect of placing the government in an
individual’s home. Moreover, the Fourth Circuit correctly points
to the fact that inspection of long-term historical CSLI gives rise
to an even greater privacy interest than in Karo and Kyllo because
a cell phone is carried by a person, can go places that other devices
are not likely to go, and thus can directly track an individual.155
D. The SCA Standard is Unconstitutional
First and foremost, since government acquisition of historical
CSLI is a search, the SCA standard of specific and articulable
facts is unconstitutional. The SCA standard allows the
government to conduct searches without having to show probable
cause, contrary to Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. Both the
Fifth and Eleventh Circuit courts have evaluated the SCA
standard by considering the added protections that Congress
instated with the SCA that did not exist prior to its enactment
when all that was needed was a subpoena.156 The proper
analysis, however, is not how far the standard has developed, but
whether or not the standard is in compliance with Fourth
This analysis seems inconsistent because the courts are
essentially saying, “The government is doing better than they
used to,” but that is not enough when a person’s fundamental
right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures is at
stake. This right has a long-standing history of protection
throughout Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and advancements
in technology should not skew the courts’ analyses. Additionally,
even if these records could be analogized with other types of
records that the government acquires with a subpoena, here, these
records can be distinguished because the information that
comprises the historical CSLI is not being voluntarily conveyed to
the service provider.
Rebutting Argument that Requiring a Warrant Allows
Criminals to Circumvent the System and Why the Lack of
Applicability of the Exigency Exception Undermines This
In focusing on the acquisition of historical CSLI, it is unclear
how requiring the government to obtain a warrant before
procuring historical CSLI from cell service providers would allow
criminals to outwit the justice system.157 Unlike other forms of
evidence that could be destroyed if not obtained quickly, the data
involved in these searches is historical and already stored by the
service providers. Consequently, unless in the unlikely event that
a criminal has an inside connection with a service provider who
can erase this information before the government can obtain a
warrant, this argument is null. Therefore, an exigency argument
cannot support the assertion that law enforcement tactics must be
allowed to advance with technology. Because the data in question
is all historical data, time is not of the essence.158 Rather, the
data is already collected and getting a warrant within a
reasonable amount of time would not affect the information.
Regardless of the amount of time that a service provider
maintains the historical CSLI, due to the relatively short amount
of time that it takes to obtain a warrant in today’s court systems,
it would not make a great difference in the government’s ability to
secure the data before it was destroyed.
In Davis, the Eleventh Circuit asserted that allowing the
government to obtain historical CSLI without a warrant assists in
157. See In re Historical Cell Site Data, 724 F.3d at 614 (quoting United
States v. Skinner, 690 F.3d 772, 778 (6th Cir. 2012)).
158. The argument that time is not of the essence for historical CSLI
assumes that the service provider maintains the records for a reasonable
amount of time.
investigations, particularly in the early stages “when the police
lack probable cause and are confronted with multiple suspects.”159
The court further stated that the SCA court order allows the
police to “help . . . build probable cause against the guilty, deflect
suspicion from the innocent, aid in the search for truth, and
judiciously allocate scarce investigative resources.”160 While this
may be accurate, the ease of police work cannot be a justification
for limiting an individual’s Fourth Amendment protection against
unreasonable searches. There are likely several instances where
allowing the police to circumvent the warrant requirement would
be beneficial to an investigation, but that is not a reason to take
away a constitutional protection. The Eleventh Circuit also
asserted the government’s compelling interest in ensuring that
the rights of innocent suspects are vindicated.161 However,
whether an individual is innocent or guilty, his or her
constitutional rights should remain intact.
F. The Amount of Time and Resources to Obtain a Warrant Is an
It is not a waste of time or resources to require the
government to obtain a warrant every time it wishes to obtain
historical CSLI. A judge issuing a court order still has to check if
the SCA’s specific and articulable facts standard is met, just as a
judge has to consider if the probable cause standard has been met
to obtain a warrant.162 Furthermore, law enforcement is still
going to court and using essentially the same resources to obtain a
court order as when they obtain a warrant. Particularly, for
historical CSLI, there is no rush for this information because it is
not real-time, and it is not likely to be destroyed in the amount of
time that it would require to get a warrant. Allowing the
government to procure this type of information without a warrant
is allowing the police, not criminals, to circumvent the criminal
159. Davis, 785 F.3d at 518.
162. See, e.g., Google Transparency Report, GOOGLE, https://www.google.
(last visited Sept. 2
G. Looking Forward to Further Advancements in Technology
The precision of the historical CSLI in these cases is
dependent on the size of the coverage ranges of the cell sites.163
In urban areas, where there is a greater density of cell towers
with smaller radii of operability, there is better accuracy of
location.164 In Graham I, the court explained that “[s]ervice
providers have begun to increase network capacity and to fill gaps
in network coverage by installing low-power cells such as
‘microcells’ and ‘femtocells,’ which cover areas as small as 40
feet.”165 As companies compete, it is only natural that this
technology will continue to advance and become more capable of
extremely precise location.166
With more precision, historical CSLI further infringes on an
individual’s Fourth Amendment protection by providing a more
discrete location than it currently does. As technology advances
and cell phones become an even more intricate part of a person’s
everyday life, cell towers will either increase in number or become
better at locating the individual. The existing competition
between cell service providers can be seen in the various
commercials and advertisements that cell service providers use
today, arguing with each other over who has the fastest
connection, a trait that is based on a tower’s presence or absence
in a given area.167
163. See Graham I, 796 F.3d 332, 343 (4th Cir. 2015), rev’d en banc, 824
F.3d 421 (4th Cir. 2016). For example, as seen in that case, “Sprint/Nextel’s
custodian testified at trial that the cell sites listed in the records each had, at
most, a two-mile radius of operability. Each cell site, therefore, covered no
greater than approximately 12.6 square miles, divided into three sectors of
approximately 4.2 square miles or less.” Id. at 350 n.9.
164. See id. at 343.
165. Id. at 350–51 (citing Public Safety Tech Topic #23–Femtocells,
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION,
https://www.fcc.gov/help/publicsafety-tech-topic-23-femtocells (last visited Sept. 2
); Small Cells
Market 2014-2019: Femtocell, Picocell, & Microcell Prospects for LTE, SONs,
Wireless Offloading & Heterogeneous Networks, PR NEWSWIRE (Apr. 7, 2015
ing-heterogeneous-networks-300061444.html; Nancy Gohring, Femtocells
Make Way into Enterprises, COMPUTERWORLD (Mar. 7, 2011 6:00 AM),
166. See id. at 351.
167. See, e.g., Alex Wagner, T-Mobile Uses Colorful Balls to Compare its
LTE Coverage to Verizon’s in New Ad, TMONEWS (Jan. 24, 2016),
Often, courts will defer to the legislature to make a change or
decision that they believe that branch of the government is more
suited to make.168 While the legislature may be able to resolve
this case by abolishing the SCA standard, the court is also capable
of addressing this issue, mostly because the standard is in direct
contradiction with a constitutional right. There are several valid
arguments in support of holding the SCA standard
unconstitutional, and it would not be contrary to Fourth
Amendment precedent for the court to hold so.
The Fourth Amendment not only “permit[s] access to that
which technology hides” but also “protect[s] that which technology
exposes.”169 Individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy
in historical CSLI data. Moreover, individuals are not voluntarily
conveying this information to service providers. Conveyance of
historical CSLI is “‘not voluntary,’ for ‘[l]iving off the grid . . . is
not a prerequisite to enjoying the protection of the Fourth
Amendment.’”170 Because individuals have a reasonable
expectation of privacy in this information, the acquisition of this
information is a search. Under the Fourth Amendment, this type
of search requires a warrant based on probable cause. If an
individual’s constitutional rights are to be upheld on this issue,
the United States Supreme Court would abolish the third-party
doctrine as it applies to historical CSLI and create a standard
whereby individuals are not faced with the choice of using
technology and participating actively in society or their
guaranteed constitutional protection under the Fourth
2. See id. at 500; United States v. Graham (Graham I) , 796 F.3d 332 ( 4th Cir . 2015 ), rev'd en banc , 824 F.3d 421 ( 4th Cir . 2016 ) ; In re United States for Historical Cell Site Data, 724 F .3d 600 , 615 ( 5th Cir . 2013 ).
3. See Katz v. United States , 389 U.S. 347 , 353 ( 1967 ).
4. See U.S. CONST. amend. IV (“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized .”).
5. In May 2016, Graham was reheard en banc, overturning the original decision of the Fourth Circuit and thereby abolishing the circuit split that was in place when the case was first decided . United States v. Graham (Graham II) , 824 F.3d 421 , 425 - 26 ( 4th Cir . 2016 ) (en banc) . Throughout this Comment , United States v. Graham , 796 F.3d 332 ( 4th Cir . 2015 ) will be referred to as “Graham I” and United States v . Graham , 824 F.3d 421 ( 4th Cir . 2016 ) (en banc) will be referred to as “Graham II .”
6. Megan L. McKeown , Note, Whose Line is it Anyway? Probable Cause
8. Leonard Deutchman , Cell Phone Tracking: Privacy or Anonymity? , THE LEGAL INTELLIGENCER (Dec. 14 , 2010 ), http://www.ldiscovery.com/law _library/pennsylvania%20law %20weekly%20cell%20tower%20tracking/files/ pennsylvania%20law%20weekly%20cell%20tower%20tracking%20.pdf.
9. Cell Phone Tower Statistics, STATISTIC BRAIN, http://www.statistic brain. com/cell-phone-tower-statistics/ (last visited Apr. 3 , 2016 ).
10. Id .; Deutchman, supra note 8.
11. Graham I , 796 F.3d 332 , 343 ( 4th Cir . 2015 ), rev'd en banc , 824 F.3d 421 ( 4th Cir . 2016 ).
12. Deutchman , supra note 8.
13. Graham I , 796 F.3d at 343.
14. Id . Cell site and cell tower are synonymous and will be used interchangeably throughout this Comment .
15. Deutchman , supra note 8.
16. Graham I , 796 F.3d at 343.
17. To be clear, the pinging of cell phone towers is not something that will soon become obsolete and replaced by the GPS function on a phone. These are two separate and distinct functions of a cell phone .
18. Graham I , 796 F.3d at 343.
19. Crusco , supra note 7.
20. See , e.g., United States v . Davis , 785 F.3d 498 , 502 ( 11th Cir . 2015 ) (Government tracked phone calls to and from defendant's cell phone connected through cell tower locations that were near relevant robbery locations; thus arguing that defendant had to be near robberies as well .).
21. Monu Bedi , The Curious Case of Cell Phone Location Data: Fourth Amendment Doctrine Mash-Up , 110 NW. U.L. REV. 507 , 510 ( 2016 ).
22. Davis , 785 F.3d at 505.
23. Id . at 502.
24. Amanda Regan , Note, Dumping the Probable Cause Requirement: Why the Supreme Court Should Decide Probable Cause is Not Necessary for Cell Tower Dumps, 43 HOFSTRA L . REV. 1189 , 1192 ( 2015 ).
25. Id .
26. See Patrick T. Chamberlain, Note, Court Ordered Disclosure of Historical Cell Site Location Information: The Argument for a Probable Cause Standard, 66 WASH . & LEE L. REV . 1745 , 1748 ( 2009 ).
27. See infra Part IV.
28. 18 U.S.C.A. § 2703 ( d) (Westlaw current through P .L. 114 -248); see, e.g., Graham II , 824 F.3d 421 , 426 ( 4th Cir . 2016 ) (en banc); Graham I, 796 F .3d 332 , 343 - 44 ( 4th Cir . 2015 ), rev'd en banc , 824 F.3d 421 ( 4th Cir . 2016 ); United States v . Davis , 785 F.3d 498 , 502 ( 11th Cir . 2015 ) ; In re United States for Historical Cell Site Data, 724 F .3d 600 , 602 ( 5th Cir . 2013 ).
29. Regan , supra note 24, at 1196 ( quoting Steven M. Harkins , Note, CSLI Disclosure: Why Probable Cause Is Necessary to Protect What's Left of the Fourth Amendment, 68 WASH & LEE L. REV . 1875 , 1896 ( 2011 )).
30. 18 U.S.C.A. § 2703 (d) (Westlaw).
31. See In re Historical Cell Site Data, 724 F.3d at 615.
32. Id . at 606; see also 18 U.S.C.A. § 2703 (c) -(d) (Westlaw); In re United States for an Order Authorizing Release of Historical Cell-site Information , 736 F. Supp . 2d 578 , 580 (E.D.N .Y. 2010 ) (holding that as statutory matter § 2703(c)-(d) permit courts to issue order without showing of probable cause). However, “[s]tatutory authority, of course, is not sufficient if such authority purports to allow, without a showing of probable cause, a search or seizure that must be considered unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment .” Id. at 581. Thus, “ it is manifest that Congress did not purport in enacting that law to definitively accept or reject the reasonableness of any particular expectation of privacy with respect to location tracking-and that therefore the statute is not immune to Fourth Amendment scrutiny . ” Id. at 581 n.9.
33. See United States v. Davis , 785 F.3d 498 , 505 - 06 ( 11th Cir . 2015 ); In re Historical Cell Site Data, 724 F.3d at 606.
34. Davis , 785 F.3d at 506; see, e.g., United States v . Willis , 759 F.2d 1486 , 1498 ( 11th Cir . 1985 ) (motel registration records); United States v . Phibbs , 999 F.2d 1053 , 1077 ( 6th Cir . 1993 ) (credit card statements) . Additionally, “[t] hose statements not only show location at the time of purchase, but also reveal intimate details of daily life, such as shopping habits, medical visits, and travel plans . ” Davis, 785 F.3d at 506 n.9.
35. See id. at 506 ; 18 U.S.C.A. § 2703 (d) (Westlaw).
36. See U.S. CONST. amend. IV.
37. Davis , 785 F.3d at 506; see 18 U.S.C.A. § 2703 (d) (Westlaw).
38. Davis , 785 F.3d at 506 (citing 18 U.S.C. § 2702(a)(3), (c)(4), c(6)) .
39. Id . (citing 18 U.S.C. § 2707 ( a ), (c) , (d)).
40. See Regan, supra note 24 , at 1197 (citing Elizabeth Elliot, Comment, United States v. Jones: The (Hopefully Temporary) Derailment of Cell-Site Location Information Protection , 15 LOY. J. PUB. INT. L. 1 , 19 ( 2013 )).
41. 18 U.S.C.A. § 2703 (d) (Westlaw).
42. U.S. CONST. amend. IV.
43. See , e.g., Smith v . Maryland , 442 U.S. 735 , 739 - 40 ( 1979 ); Katz v . United States , 389 U.S. 347 , 353 ( 1967 ) ; United States v . Robinson , 62 F.3d 1325 , 1328 ( 11th Cir . 1995 ).
44. See , e.g., Smith , 442 U.S. at 745-46; Katz, 389 U.S. at 356-57; Robinson, 62 F.3d at 1330.
45. See , e.g., Katz , 389 U.S. at 357-58.
46. Id . at 353. Furthermore , United States v. Jones is not applicable here because this is not a situation involving trespass or interference with physical property . See 132 S. Ct . 945 , 949 ( 2012 ).
47. 389 U.S. at 353.
48. Id . at 361 (Harlan, J., concurring).
49. Id .
50. Id .
51. United States v. Robinson , 62 F.3d 1325 , 1328 ( 11th Cir . 1995 ).
52. See infra Part IV.
53. Mapp v. Ohio , 367 U.S. 643 , 656 - 57 ( 1961 ).
54. United States v. Leon , 468 U.S. 897 , 919 - 22 ( 1984 ).
55. See , e.g., Graham I , 796 F.3d 332 , 362 ( 4th Cir . 2015 ), rev'd en banc , 824 F.3d 421 ( 4th Cir . 2016 ).
56. Id . (citations omitted).
57. See infra Part IV. The Graham II opinion did not discuss the goodfaith exception like the court in Graham I; however, the exception must be addressed because it is still a very relevant concern on this topic and may be used in future decisions .
58. Graham I , 796 F.3d at 362.
59. See infra Part IV.
60. See U.S. CONST. amend. IV.
61. Smith v. Maryland , 442 U.S. 735 , 743 - 44 ( 1979 ) ; accord McKeown , supra note 6 , at 2041 .
62. See United States v. Davis , 785 F.3d 498 , 508 - 09 ( 11th Cir . 2015 ) (stressing findings in Smith that third-party doctrine can apply to telephone calls to third persons outside of the home); In re United States for Historical Cell Site Data, 724 F .3d 600 , 612 - 13 ( 5th Cir . 2013 ) (applying Smith's reasoning involving a telephone user to a cell service subscriber).
63. Davis , 785 F.3d at 508 (quoting Smith, 442 U.S. at 742).
64. RICHARD M. THOMPSON II, CONG . RESEARCH SERV., R43586 , THE FOURTH AMENDMENT THIRD-PARTY DOCTRINE 1 ( 2014 ); Crusco, supra note 7, at 2.
65. Graham I , 796 F.3d 332 , 354 ( 4th Cir . 2015 ), rev'd en banc , 824 F.3d 421 ( 4th Cir . 2016 ); Crusco, supra note 7, at 2.
66. Graham I , 796 F.3d at 355 -56.
67. Id . at 356.
68. See United States v. Jones , 132 S. Ct . 945 , 957 (Sotomayor, J., concurring).
69. See , e.g., Graham I , 796 F.3d at 341; Deutchman, supra note 8.
70. Compare Graham I , 796 F. 3d at 361 (holding that a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy), with United States v . Davis , 785 F.3d 498 , 518 ( 11th Cir . 2015 ) (holding that no reasonable expectation of privacy because information was voluntarily conveyed to third party).
71. Lance J. Rogers , Massachusetts Cops Need Warrant for Tower Data , BLOOMBERG BNA (Sept. 30 , 2015 ), http://www.bna.com/massachusetts-copsneed-n57982059186/.
72. See Davis, 785 F.3d at 505.
88. Id . at 615. This interpretation protects the reasonable expectations of privacy that the Fourth Amendment recognizes . Id. This case is only dealing with the narrow issue of obtaining historical CSLI for specified cell phones via SCA orders . Id.
89. See infra Part IV .B.
90. Aaron Smith , Americans and Their Cell Phones , PEW RESEARCH CENTER (Aug. 15 , 2011 ), http://www.pewinternet.org/ 2011 /08/15/americansand-their -cell-phones/ . As of 2011 , 83 % of American adults owned some kind of cell phone for the essential tasks of information-seeking and communication . Id.
91. 785 F.3d 498 , 518 ( 11th Cir . 2015 ). In Davis, the Government sought to obtain telephone records from the defendant's service provider for a sixtyseven-day period, which was the time span of seven different armed robberies that the police suspected the defendant of committing . Id. at 501 . The Government's “application requested production of stored 'telephone subscriber records' and 'phone toll records,' including the 'corresponding geographic location data (cell site) . . . .'” Id. at 502.
92. Id . at 511.
93. Id . at 518.
94. See id. at 505; In re United States for Historical Cell Site Data, 724 F .3d 600 , 614 - 15 ( 5th Cir . 2013 ).
146. See Orin S. Kerr , An Equilibrium-Adjustment Theory of the Fourth Amendment , 125 HARV. L. REV. 476 , 527 ( 2011 ).
147. Graham II , 824 F. 3d at 446 (en banc) (Wynn , J., dissenting).
148. Id . (quoting Kyllo v . United States , 533 U.S. 27 , 33 ( 2001 )).
149. Id . at 425 (majority opinion).
150. Id . at 437.
151. Graham I , 796 F.3d 332 , 345 , rev'd en banc, 824 F.3d 421 ( 4th Cir . 2016 ) (4th Cir . 2015 ).
152. See id. at 346.
153. 468 U.S. 705 , 714 ( 1984 ) (holding that government's “monitoring of a beeper in a private residence, a location not open to visual surveillance, violates the Fourth Amendment rights of those who have a justifiable interest in the privacy of the residence .”).
154. 533 U.S. 27 , 40 ( 2001 ) (holding that government's use of a device not available to general public to explore details of home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion violates the Fourth Amendment) .
155. Graham I , 796 F.3d at 347.
156. United States v. Davis , 785 F.3d 498 , 505 ( 11th Cir . 2015 ) ; In re United States for Historical Cell Site Data, 724 F .3d 600 , 607 ( 5th Cir . 2013 ). http://www.tmonews.com/ 2016 /01/t-mobile -uses-colorful-balls-to-compare-itslte-coverage-to-verizons-in-new-ad/; Adrian Diaconescu, T-Mobile and Sprint Bust Verizon's Balls . . . Ad with Comical New Commercials of Their Own , POCKETNOW (Jan. 25 , 2016 , 6 :25 AM), http://pocketnow.com/ 2016 /01/25/tmobile-sprint -verizon-balls-commercials.
168. See United States v. Davis , 785 F.3d 498 , 512 ( 11th Cir . 2015 ).
169. Orin S. Kerr , The Case for the Third-Party Doctrine , 107 MICH. L. REV. 561 , 580 ( 2009 ).
170. Graham II , 824 F.3d 421 , 433 ( 4th Cir . 2016 ) (en banc) (alteration in original).