In general, the police need a warrant to search your house, person, papers, etc. However, there are exceptions to this Fourth Amendment rule. Last week, the Nevada Supreme Court held in Taylor v. State, 132 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 27 (April 21, 2016), that the police do not need a warrant or probable cause to get information from your cell phone that shows (1) all the general locations you have been to, (2) your incoming and outgoing calls, and (3) the dates of telephone call or text messages, along with the duration for each. The general locations you have been to are obtained from your cell phone because your phone always seeks the cell tower emitting the strongest signal, which is usually, but not always, the closest tower.
Under the Stored Communications Act of 1986, the police can obtain this information through a subpoena by simply providing “specific and articulable facts” showing that the information on your cell phone is “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.” Stated differently, and more honestly, if the police ask for it, they are going to get it. No probable cause or warrant required! The only saving grace is that the information that can be obtained without a warrant does not include the actual content of your telephone conversations or text messages.
Unfortunately, most federal courts agree with the Nevada Supreme Court. Less than 2 weeks ago, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled similarly to the Nevada Supreme Court in U.S. v. Carpenter, Nos. 14-1572/1805 (April 13, 2016). However, the courts do disagree about what exact information can be obtained without probable cause. In Taylor, the Nevada Supreme Court stated that the police did not need a warrant to obtain the following information from the Defendant’s cell phone: (1) His location (within 2.5 miles of the crime scene), and (2) The call and text records between the Defendant and the murder victim.
Not all hope is lost, however. In the end, the U.S. Supreme Court will be the final decision maker on whether or not the Nevada Supreme Court and the federal courts are correct in not requiring a warrant to obtain this private, cell phone information.
At the Nobles & Yanez Law Firm, we are always searching for the latest court decisions from all jurisdictions to help protect your important constitutional rights. If you are a potential suspect of a crime or have been formally charged, contact us immediately to retain a law firm that can put you in the best possible position to beat the government. Remember, big or small, we handle it all!
Sixth Circuit case can be found here: http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/16a0089p-06.pdf