Tags: NJ | Supreme | Court | cellphone | warrant

NJ High Court: Police Need Warrant to Track Suspects by Cellphone Data

Thursday, 18 Jul 2013 10:51 PM

By Matthew Auerbach

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The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Thursday that police must first obtain a warrant before tracking a suspect using cellphone data, reports The New York Times.

In a unanimous decision, state justices declared that when people entered cellphone contracts, "they can reasonably expect that their personal information will remain private," according to the Times.

Peter G. Verniero, a former New Jersey attorney general and state Supreme Court justice, believes the court's ruling will have ramifications nationwide.

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"This type of issue will play out in many jurisdictions for the simple reason that cellphones are so prevalent in daily life," Verniero told the Times. "The decision affects just about everybody."

Verniero added that changes will affect how police do their jobs, but should not alter the basic rights of citizens.

"Law enforcement is trying to keep up with technology, as well they should," Verniero said.

"It's very legitimate for law enforcement to use technology, but this court decision is a strong reminder that constitutional standards still apply," he explained. "The courts have to adapt, and law enforcement has to adapt."

The justices acknowledged that their ruling was a slight departure from federal case law.

They were influenced somewhat by a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that stated police could not attach a Global Positioning System to a suspect's car without a warrant.

In the minds of the state justices, a cellphone was no different than a GPS device.

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"Using a cellphone to determine the location of its owner can be far more revealing than acquiring toll billing, bank, or Internet subscriber records," wrote Chief Justice Stuart Rabner in the opinion.

"Details about the location of a cellphone can provide an intimate picture of one's daily life and reveal not just where people go — which doctors, religious services and stores they visit — but also the people and groups they choose to affiliate with. That information cuts across a broad range of personal ties with family, friends, political groups, healthcare providers and others."


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