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United States v. Davis

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  1. Newsgathering
A panel of Eleventh Circuit judges held that the Fourth Amendment applies to requests for historical cell site location information.…

A panel of Eleventh Circuit judges held that the Fourth Amendment applies to requests for historical cell site location information. Prosecutors obtained over two months' worth of historical location information from a cell phone provider using a court order issued under the Stored Communications Act, which permits a court to order a service provider to turn over subscriber records but does not require a finding of probable cause that a crime has been committed. The Eleventh Circuit granted rehearing en banc, and the Reporters Committee filed a brief in support of the defendant's position. The Fourth Amendment question in the case, the Reporters Committee argued, is inextricably linked to First Amendment questions. Warrantless acquisition of cell phone location data is concerning because a record of where one goes, and for how long, lays bare the processes of investigative reporting and threatens to reveal confidential sources and methods. Historically, the Fourth Amendment was designed to protect journalists, many of whom were the targets of "general warrants" for seditious libel. As a result, the Fourth Amendment requires all searches to be "reasonable" and limits the issuance of warrants to cases in which there is probable cause.