500 word discussion response (Justin wk8)

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In Carpenter v. U.S., the FBI applied for three orders from a magistrate judge to obtain “transactional records” for numbers provided to them by one of the four criminals that were wanted in connection in a series of bank robberies. The judge granted the orders under the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. 2703(d), which yielded cell-site location data, to which also included locations of the individuals when calls were made. Timothy Carpenter was one who was eventually arrested and charged by means of this data, to which Carpenter filed a motion to suppress the data as evidence in belief that It violated the Fourth Amendment by requiring the FBI have a warrant to obtain such data. The U.S. Supreme court ruled in favor of Carpenter claiming that the government warrantless acquisition of the cell-site records did in fact violate the Fourth Amendment.

I personally do not agree with the court’s decision in Carpenter v. U.S. as I find their decision to be based in unsubstantiated opinion and hypocrisy to prior court decision like the one in Smith v. Maryland. They are presuming that the defendant was not aware that their cell data and information was collected by the cellular provider and had a reasonable expectation of privacy based on the way people view digital data today. The case in fact is that a lot of people are more aware that cell service provider is attuned to data like our location, and maintain the expectation that they don’t have privacy in it. Additionally, people are made aware through privacy agreements when obtaining service of such collection of information. Lastly, prior cases have held that law enforcement is privy to the service provider information on a phone without a warrant provided there is a criminal investigation. We must keep in mind that this case was not a real time track of information or communications which is completely separate entity, but seemingly the viewpoint the court took to make this ruling.

2) What is the dissent’s strongest argument?

The Supreme Court decided this case in a 5-4 decision. The dissenters all had valid arguments, however the strongest was Justice Alito’s, to which Justice Thomas joined. Justice Alito argued that the defendant (Carpenter) did not have standing to object to a third parties’ property, and that having a third party inquire into its own records to produce specific documents was in fact less intrusive than an actual search. Justice Alito’s explanation comes directly from the court’s decision not to apply what is the most important aspect of this case, which is the third-party doctrine is a rule that information losses its Fourth Amendment protections once it is revealed to a third party knowingly (Kerr, 2009). Justice Kennedy would file a dissent which stated similarly that cell-site records are business records and the government has a lawful right to obtain them by a compulsory process.


Carpenter v. United States. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved from https://www.oyez.org/cases/2017/16-402

Kerr, O. (2009). The Case for the Third-Party Doctrine. Michigan Law Review, 107(4), 561-601. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/40379829

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