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Carpenter v. United States (Argument November 29, 2017)


This case has been decided. See how it turned out!

This case gives us a chance to review the progression of the 4th Amendment – our privacy from government intrusion.

When the 4th Amendment was enacted (in the Bill of Rights, 1791), people were concerned with physical searches. Today is an era of electronic communications and big data. Government access to private information is a completely different ballgame.

In this case, Carpenter and Sanders were convicted of a series of robberies based on their cell phone location data. The FBI got the information from Carpenter and Sanders’ cell phone service providers without a warrant.

The FBI did not have to show “probable cause” because the 4th Amendment did not apply. Instead, the Stored Communications Act did.

Check out our graphic explainer of the case.

Cases Cited:

You also can find concise descriptions of these cases in our Legal Landscape on Government Electronic Surveillance (see the Judicial column).

More information:

For more information about this case, see SCOTUSblog’s Argument Preview.

View our other resources on Criminal Law:

View another resource on electronic data:

Landscape of laws relating to Internet Data Privacy.

About the Author

Mariam Morshedi

Mariam Morshedi

Mariam Morshedi is the Founder and Executive Director of Subscript Law. Before starting Subscript Law, she practiced civil rights law for AARP Foundation, where she litigated housing, consumer and disability rights issues.

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