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High-profile spotlight: U.S. Supreme Court to look at phone tracking

Allegedly, an individual targeted by police participated with a group in a string of robberies in multiple locales. In searching for an optimal way to link that person with the crimes, law enforcers seized upon the idea of tracking his movements over time through signals sent out from his mobile phone to cellphone towers.

Mission accomplished.

Prosecutors say that cellphone location records they were able to obtain via their request under the federal Stored Communication Act sufficiently tied their suspect to myriad crime scenes. The evidence they submitted at trial resulted in an eye-popping 116-year prison term for the defendant.

That individual’s legal team is now seeking to have the phone records excluded, saying that their collection is constitutionally infirm and that any evidence linked with them should be judicially deemed as inadmissible.

That very question will soon be decided at the highest court level in the country, with the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing to hear arguments in its upcoming term this autumn, issuing a ruling shortly thereafter that many commentators hope will yield a consistent standard for lower tribunals across the country to follow.

The appellant’s legal team references what they infer is an unbridled license for government authorities to act in a manner that fundamentally threatens privacy rights of every American. They point to the records obtained that spanned months of use and included many thousands of location points.

It is critically important for the nation’s preeminent court “to push back against police overreach and clarify the protections of the Fourth Amendment,” says one of the prisoner’s attorneys.

We will share the court’s ruling with readers as soon as it issues.