Court issues decision supporting privacy rights in cell phone tracking case
In criminal defense work, privacy is a big concern when it comes to evaluating the validity of evidence. Prosecutors mostly rely on law enforcement officers and agencies to prove charges, but evidence may be excluded from trial if it is gathered in a way that violates the privacy rights of a criminal suspect.
Law enforcement obviously has a lot of resources at its disposal to investigate suspected criminal activity, and has the responsibility of using its powers in accordance with legal requirements. This means, among other things, obtaining a warrant before conducting a search, at least under ordinary circumstances.
One of the areas where privacy has recently come up through the courts is a decision by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals which affirmed a lower court ruling that prosecutors may not use evidence police obtained through the use of cell phone tracking technology.
The case involved the Baltimore Police Department's use of technology that allowed them to track the location of a murder suspect by tracking his cell phone. Investigators in the case were able to discover a gun involved in the shooting by searching an apartment where his cell phone was located. A warrant was not obtained prior to the use of the technology.
The court of appeals has not yet released an opinion supporting its decision, so the rationale for the decision isn't yet known for sure. In our next post, we'll continue looking at the case and its potential impact in criminal cases in Maryland.