BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Do police need a warrant to track your cell phone? It’s a question that’s been at the center of a nationwide debate. After months of controversy, a major decision is made, making the law clear in Maryland.
Rick Ritter breaks down the ruling from one of the highest federal courts.READ MORE: Vacant Building Partially Collapses In Baltimore
The ruling means no search warrant is needed to track your cell phone. Just a court order clears the way for police to obtain your cell phone information if it’s needed for an investigation.
From a simple call to a text, even just walking around on your phone. It’s cell data that’s now easier for police to obtain if you’re a prime suspect.
The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals made the ruling Tuesday stating police do not need a search warrant to obtain cell tower location data in Maryland. This, after backlash from the ACLU.
“Police should not be able to turn our phones into tracking devices without getting a warrant from a judge,” said Nathan Wessler, ACLU.
The organization has been worried that months of cell phone data can reveal private details of a person’s life.
The ruling was centered around a Baltimore case back in 2011, when cell phone records led police to their prime suspects in a string of armed robberies. Investigators obtained over 200 days of data from one of their wireless providers, helping tie the duo to the crimes.READ MORE: Naval Academy Midshipman Injured In Small Plane Crash In Easton
“As a law-abiding citizen, I want my police force to be aggressive, be assertive. I want them to operate within the bounds of the law,” said Fallston Group security expert Rob Weinhold.
Weinhold says it’s a partial win for police.
“Investigators want to streamline information so they can locate these criminals quickly and bring them to justice,” Weinhold said.
Even though they still need to get a court order, there’s no need for a search warrant. That can speed along a criminal process, where time is crucial.
“When you’re looking for an armed, dangerous individual who is clearly a threat to others, every second, every hour counts,” Weinhold said.
US Attorney Rod Rosenstein released a statement saying in part, “Prosecutors can only obtain cell records if a judge finds they are relevant to a criminal investigation…meaning no records…without judicial approval.”MORE NEWS: Unemployed Workers Union File Class Action Lawsuit To Prevent End Of Federal Benefits
The appeals court said cell phone users are not protected by the Fourth Amendment because they voluntarily share such data with their service provider. Tuesday’s opinion overturns a 2015 opinion and reduces the likelihood that the Supreme Court will consider the issue.