Back to real law

Here is an interesting technology case from the Third Circuit as reported by the Wall Street Journal blog.

Technology has made it increasingly easy for the government to track an individual’s whereabouts.

But on Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit ratcheted back the government’s surveillance power, finding that judges have the right to require warrants before police get cell phone records that could pinpoint a customer’s location. Clickhere for the AP story; here for the Legal Intelligencer story; herefor the opinion, written by Judge Dolores Sloviter.

The government appealed, arguing that the 1986 Electronics Communications Privacy Act required only “reasonable grounds” the data is relevant to a criminal investigation, not the higher probable cause standard needed for warrants.

But the Third Circuit on Tuesday rejected the government’s argument, finding that judges could require “probable cause.” The opinion represented the first time a federal appellate court had ruled on the issue.