5-4 Ruling Handed down – Is your cell phone better than a fingerprint?

Not long ago the US Supreme Court was asked in Carpenter v US to decide if cell phone technology is the modern day equivalent to the fingerprint.  In some cases, it could be more revealing than a fingerprint.  This case is considered by some to be the most important Fourth Amendment case that the Supreme Court has heard in a generation


As cell phones have become an integral part of everyday life, they are used by a majority of Americans.  These phones rely on towers to connect to the network.  As the phone moves locations it connects to the nearest tower.  This connection leaves a trail that tells the story of where you’ve been and at what times.  This information is stored and could at some point be used by the “Government” as a way to track movement.”The Fourth Amendment requires governmental searches and seizures be conducted only upon issuance of a warrant, judicially sanctioned by probable cause supported by oath or affirmation”.


The question was raised to the Supreme Court: Is this cell phone “fingerprint” information protected by the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution?   The issue was whether warrantless seizure and search of historical cell-phone records revealing the location and movements of a cell-phone user over the course of 127 days are permitted by the Fourth Amendment.

The Court must decide if police should be allowed access to phones digital location or should it be protected from unrestricted access to this information without a proper warrant.

The Court will announce its decision prior to the conclusion of the October 2017 Term, which ends in June 2018. Justices will answer the challenging question as to whether cell information is protected or it’s simply a modern-day fingerprint.

The Supreme Court answered with a yes that cell phone technology contains much more information and is thereby protected by the 4th Amendment which forbids search without a warrant.

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