Friday, June 13, 2014

11th Circuit makes mixed ruling in cellphone metadata case; what about crime deterrence?

A federal appeals court, the 11th Circuit in Miami, in the case of U.S. v. Quartavious Davis, has ruled that police departments and law enforcement agencies need probable cause warrants from judges to get cellphone location data from telecommunications carriers when tracking possible suspects.  The link for the opinion is here.   As the New York Times points out, the Court did not overturn the conviction.  The NYT calls its stand “A good ruling on privacy: Cellphone tracking cannot trample the Fourth Amendment”.  What’s confounding is that indeed, it seems that tracking of cell phone locations and license plates (which the LAPD is so good at) can be very effective in quick apprehensive of perpetrators of both street and property crimes, providing in time some deterrence.  How would this ruling play out in the Washington DC area, particularly in newly gentrified areas (like around Capitol Hill and in some of NE) where brazenness of crime seems, at least according to media reports, to increase.  You always have to wonder where the greatest dangers to your own life come from, in practice.   

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