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Broward cell phone tracking case heard by Florida Supreme Court


In Florida, as in other jurisdictions around the country, appellate courts sometimes wrestle with how constitutional rights are affected by new technologies. One such case was argued before the Florida Supreme Court this month.

In the case before the court, a defendant challenged the police use of real-time cell phone tracking that led to his arrest on drug charges. The man was arrested in Broward County in 2007 and later convicted on charges including drug possession and fleeing police. Detectives had obtained a search warrant to collect information about the man's cell phone use. The central issue in the case is whether that warrant gave officers the authority to track the man's vehicle on a real-time basis, or only allowed them to collect historical information. The tracking led cops to eventually arrest the man for having a kilogram of cocaine hidden in the vehicle. The lower court refused to throw out the evidence, and the defendant appealed his conviction.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects us from unreasonable search and siezure. Defense counsel in this case argued that the tracking violated this constitutional protection, because the defendant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements. The defense also argued the search warrant in the case was not broad enough to cover real time tracking of the defendant's movements.

The reasonableness of a police search is often a major issue in drug cases. If the search is found to be unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment, any evidence discovered in the search must be thrown out. In a drug case, this usually results in dismissal of the charges.

Source: Tallahassee.com, "Justices weigh cell phone tracking by cops," Jim Saunders, Oct. 7, 2013

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