US v. Aaron Graham

January 22, 2016

Graham was convicted of robbery. In the course of the prosecution, the government requested a court order under the Stored Communications Act compelling Sprint, Graham's phone provider, to disclose 221 days of historical cell site location information (CSLI). Graham moved to suppress the CSLI, arguing that the warrantless acquisition of location information is an unconstitutional search. A Fourth Circuit panel held the order violated the Fourth Amendment. The case is now being reheard en banc. We argued that the Fourth Circuit "should consider the First Amendment interests that warrantless acquisition of communications information implicates when it resolves the Fourth Amendment questions presented by Graham’s appeal." The Fourth Amendment is rooted in the Framers' concerns about safeguarding printers and the press. As a result, Fourth Amendment protections must be applied with rigor when First Amendment rights are at stake. The Stored Communications Act not only does not offer sufficient protection for First Amendment rights, but by facilitating warrantless searches of information gleaned from cell phone and other electronic communications records, the SCA also endangers the confidentiality of communications that is at the core of journalistic professionalism.