Sixth Circuit Rules That Pinging a Cell Phone to Determine Its Location is Not a 4th Amendment “Search” | Volokh

The decision handed down this morning is United States v. Skinner, and it was 2-1 on the Fourth Amendment merits. The defendant used a pre-paid cell phone obtained by providing false identity information (also known as a “burner“) to communicate with co-conspirators as he brought a motor home filled with marijuana from Arizona from Tennessee. Agents learned the cell phone number that the defendant was using and obtained a court order requiring the cell phone company to disclose location information of the phone to the agents. The government used the location information to track the car for three days, eventually catching up to the car ata rest stop in Texas. Local police brought out a dog to sniff for marijuana; the dog alerted for the presence of drugs inside; and the search of the car revealed 1,100 pounds of marijuana inside. Continue reading