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Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers > Blog > Sex Crimes > Can Georgia Law Enforcement Demand Cell Phone Location Data Without a Warrant?

Can Georgia Law Enforcement Demand Cell Phone Location Data Without a Warrant?


Modern smartphones make it possible to stay in touch with friends and family at all times. A downside to this, however, is that it also makes it possible for law enforcement to track our movements. As a result, there have been a number of key court rulings over the past decade regarding how and when police must obtain a warrant before seeking disclosure of cell-site location information (CSLI) gathered by wireless carriers.

Judges Suppress Evidence in Rape Trial Due to Police Detective’s Actions

Just recently, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld a trial judge’s decision to suppress evidence gathered from an illegal CSLI search as part of a sex crimes investigation. This case, State v. Gunsby, involves allegations that the defendant committed rape and other offenses against two separate victims.

According to court records, a detective interviewed the first victim, who said she was raped by a taxi driver. The victim said she managed to escape the driver’s car and flag down help. The victim provided a description of the attacker’s vehicle as a “black SUV” and provided a partial license plate number. The next day, the detective received a call from the second victim, who said she was raped by a man who offered a ride home in a black SUV.

Based on these reports, the detective asked T-Mobile to provide the CSLI for the phone number the first victim used to call the taxi. The detective told T-Mobile that police analysis “predicted” the defendant would commit another rape that night unless he was caught. T-Mobile then disclosed the phone’s location data for the preceding 48 hours and its associated address. Using this information, the police obtained a search warrant for the defendant’s home, which recovered evidence that was then used to charge him in both rapes.

Before the trial court, the defendant moved to suppress the evidence gathered from the search. The trial court granted the motion, and the Court of Appeals affirmed that decision. As the appellate court explained, the detective’s request to T-Mobile was based on false and misleading information. For example, the detective said at the time that the suspect used Craigslist to lure potential victims. That was not true. The detective also said that without the CSLI the suspect would “rape again tonight,” which was “speculative and unsupported by a credible analysis.”

As such, the trial court properly found the detective acted “in bad faith” when demanding T-Mobile turn over its CSLI without first obtaining a warrant. Under the circumstances, the Court of Appeals said it was therefore proper to grant the defendant’s motion to suppress in order to avoid rewarding “police officers who lie to avoid procedural safeguards.”

Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today

Every person accused of a crime in Georgia has the right to confront the evidence against them. This includes challenging the legality of the methods used by the police to obtain that evidence. An experienced Atlanta criminal defense attorney can help you do just that. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.



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