In a first-of-its kind ruling, a federal judge has thrown out evidence obtained illegally through the use of a device known as a “Stingray.”
This case represents a milestone in Fourth Amendment case law, and our privacy rights are once again in the spotlight because of this ruling.
According to Reuters:
U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan on Tuesday ruled that defendant Raymond Lambis’ rights were violated when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration used such a device without a warrant to find his Washington Heights apartment.
The DEA had used a stingray to identify Lambis’ apartment as the most likely location of a cell phone identified during a drug-trafficking probe. Pauley said doing so constituted an unreasonable search.
“Absent a search warrant, the government may not turn a citizen’s cell phone into a tracking device,” Pauley wrote.
The ruling marked the first time a federal judge had suppressed evidence obtained using a stingray, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which like other privacy advocacy groups has criticized law enforcement’s use of such devices.
The Stingray device acts by tricking cell phones in a certain range to reveal their location; it does this by acting as a cell phone tower. Sound sketchy? Well, it’s the government doing it so…
The ruling out of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan is a huge win for our privacy and Fourth Amendment rights. In an age where everything is becoming digital, the Fourth Amendment is more essential than ever.
Previously, the government had to physically go to a location to conduct searches. But in the time when everything is in cyberspaces, violating our right against unreasonable search and seizure has never been more critical.
But this was not something that no one predicted. In fact, way back in 1928 in the case of Olmstead vs United States, Justice Louis Brandeis issued a warning about advances in technology, and how those advances would be used by the government to violate the right of privacy.
The progress of science in furnishing the Government with means of espionage is not likely to stop with wiretapping. Ways may someday be developed by which the Government, without removing papers from secret drawers, can reproduce them in court, and by which it will be enabled to expose to a jury the most intimate occurrences of the home…”That places the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer” was said by James Otis of much lesser intrusions than these. To Lord Camden, a far slighter intrusion seemed “subversive of all the comforts of society.” Can it be that the Constitution affords no protection against such invasions of individual security?
I’d say we’ve gotten to this point.