Do Police Need a Search Warrant To Track Cell Phones?

For the first time a Federal Judge has ruled that law enforcement is required to obtain a search warrant before they  can use technology to track an individuals cell phone. US District Judge William Pauley wrote “Absent a search warrant, the government may not turn the citizens cell phone into a tracking device.”

In this case DEA agents used a device called a “Stingray” to track the defendant’s cell phone to an apartment. The Stingray device acts as a cell site simulator and causes a cell phone to ping off the simulator. In doing so, law enforcement can determine the location of the cell phone.

The court ruling will now require law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before they can use the Stingray device. Prosecutors have yet to make a decision on whether to appeal the decision. The Justice Department has changed it’s policy to require a warrant now so it appears that prosecutors are anticipating that the courts will follow this logic.

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