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Concord University Carpenter vs United States Case Study

The United States Supreme Court recently ruled on the Carpenter v. United States case. This is a very interesting case that falls within the realm of forensics and discovery. Provide your opinions regarding the merits of the case and whether you agree with the ruling or not. If you agree, why? If you disagree, why?

Carpenter v. United States

The Fourth Amendment guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Yet according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1979 decision in Smith v. Maryland (https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=3033726127475530815&q=smith+v+maryland&hl=en&as_sdt=6,33), “a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.”

Otherwise known as the third-party doctrine, this legal rule has been a great gift to law enforcement agencies on both the federal and state levels. Let’s say the police want to know the email addresses of your correspondents, or the URLs of the websites you have visited. Under the third-party doctrine, the police do not need a search warrant (issued upon probable cause) to get that information from your internet service provider.

But doesn’t the idea of granting vast warrantless search powers to the police run afoul of the bedrock protections enshrined in the Fourth Amendment?

The Supreme Court will grapple with those questions this term in Carpenter v. United States. At issue is whether the FBI violated the Fourth Amendment when it obtained, without a search warrant, the cellphone records of suspected armed robber Timothy Carpenter. With those records, law enforcement officials identified the cell towers that handled the suspect’s calls and then proceeded to trace back his whereabouts during the time periods in which his alleged crimes were committed. That information was used against Carpenter in court.

According to Carpenter and his lawyers ( https://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017… ), “carrying a smartphone, checking for new emails from one’s boss, updating the weather forecast, and downloading directions ought not license total surveillance of a person’s entire life.”

According to the Trump administration (https://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017…,) “a cell-phone user has no reasonable expectation of privacy in business records created by his provider documenting the cell sites used to document his calls.”

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