Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking Widespread among Law Enforcement Agencies

A new study by the American Civil Liberties Union confirms what California criminal defense attorneys are already aware of. According to the study by the American Civil Liberties Union, virtually all law enforcement agencies in the country track suspects using cell phone location tracking tools.

The American Civil Liberties Union obtained police records from than 200 police departments across the United States. In almost all of these cases, the agency found that police secretly tracked the location of cell phones using data provided by wireless carriers. In many states, the law requires law enforcement agencies and police departments to obtain a warrant, before they track cell phone locations.

In California, the American Civil Liberties Union approached a number of police departments including the Davis, Fremont, Fresno, San Jose, and San Francisco police departments. However, out of the 20 police departments that the American Civil Liberties Union approached, barely a handful responded and opened up their records to the agency. The other departments declined the request. It is therefore hard for California criminal defense lawyers to tell exactly how prevalent this practice is in California.

Cell phone tracking can take on various forms. Police officers can direct companies like Google and Apple to provide important data like cell phone location, surveillance texts and other data needed for criminal investigations. What really concerns California criminal defense attorneys is that most in many of these cases, the department tracked phones without obtaining warrants.

According to the ACLU, at least 2 of California’s police departments, including the one in San Francisco seem to be going about the process of tracking cell phones the legal way. In San Francisco, the police department seeks search warrants before it tracks cell phones, while in Sacramento, the department secures court orders

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