I applying the “good-faith exception” is appropriate

I will be analyzing the United States vs.
Graham case. The first issue of this case is whether the Fourth Amendment
requires law enforcement to possess a warrant to obtain cell-site location
information in order to retrace the steps of users over an extended period of
time (United States vs. Graham, 2015). In this case, law enforcement used CSLI, cell-site location information,
to retrace the defendants’ movements for a period of several weeks; this means
that law enforcement may be at fault for obtaining the defendants’ private
cellular data without possessing a warrant. The second issue of this case is whether
the Stored Communications Act justifies the application of the “good-faith
exception” to the law enforcement’s warrantless acquisition of the defendants’ cell-site
location information over a seven-month period (United States vs. Graham, 2015).
The Stored Communications Act is a law that addresses the disclosure of collected wire and
electronic communications, as
well as transactional data, all of which are confined by third-party internet
service providers. The “good faith exception” is defined
as the anomaly to the restricted regulation (Busby, 2007, n.p.). In this case, the
Stored Communications Act may not support the law enforcement’s application of
the “good-faith exception” to this circumstance; this application may not be
supported due to the fact that the Stored Communications Act contains a provision
which requires the government to possess a warrant in order to collect private
data, but it also contains a provision which allows law enforcement to acquire
this information on less than probable cause (United
States vs. Graham, 2015). These opposing provisions within the Stored
Communications Act make it difficult for the court to gauge whether or not applying
the “good-faith exception” is appropriate for this particular circumstance.

Graham and Eric Jordan serve as the defendants in this case, while the United
States serves as the plaintiff. The defendants’ argument was that the court cannot
convict them of a crime; they claimed that it would be unjust for the court to convict
them since their Fourth
Amendment rights were violated by
law enforcement accessing their private cellular data without a warrant.
Law enforcement collected “221 days of
historical cell site location information about Graham from Sprint, which
detailed 29,000 location points, an average of 100 data points a day” (Electronic Frontier Foundation, n.d.).  The prosecutors
used CSLI, cell-site location information, in order to retrace the defendants’
steps and place them at the majority of the crime scenes. In August 2015, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1; this means that
the majority of the panel held the position that an individual should be able
to expect privacy in regards to cell site records and that police are
required to obtain a search warrant in order to access this information (EFF, n.d.).  However,
in May 2016, the full court overturned the panel’s original decision. The
court argued that citizens lack interest in possessing Fourth Amendment-protected
privacy to secure their sensitive cellular data, since they mindlessly share
personal information with third parties through their everyday use of
technology (EFF, n.d.); therefore, if citizens are unbothered
by third parties regularly collecting their personal data, they must be aware that
this data can be used against them.  The
outcome of this case is still unsettled; Graham and Jordan petitioned the
Supreme Court for certiorari, which is review for case, in the fall of 2016 (EFF, n.d.).  

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This case was significant because it led to the Supreme Court’s realization that the Fourth
Amendment is not easily applicable to digital-era court cases. This case generated multiple circuit splits. More specifically,
it generated an evident circuit split with the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits;
this split determines whether or not acquiring cell-site records should be classified as a search. This case
also generated an extra circuit split with the Eleventh Circuit; this split
determines either the presence or absence of a warrant, depending on the cell-site’s
level of protection. Lastly, this case intensified an already existing divide
between the Fifth and Third Circuits; this divide determines if the Stored
Communications Act can enable the government to decide whether a court order or
a warrant should be acquired in order to access cell-site records (Kerr, 2015,
n.p.). This case led to the Supreme Court’s realization that forming decisions
based upon the third-party doctrine is ineffective since it was created in the
1970s, when telecommunications technology was much less advanced (Ford, 2017,
n.p.). Under the third-party doctrine, Americans should not possess a “reasonable
expectation of privacy” when disclosing personal information to a third party,
such as a phone company; stating that one’s privacy regarding his/her use of
modern technology is a privilege, rather than a right, is ill-suited and
nonsensical claim for our current digital era (Ford, 2017, n.p.).

The most significant implication of the
ruling is that digital-era cases cannot be handled in the same manner as pre-digital-era
cases. This implication arose when the court attempted to apply third-party
doctrine to this case; the doctrine was created when telecommunications
technology was less developed, so it does not address certain problems which may
arise in our current digital era. The third-party doctrine would have likely solved
a pre-digital-era case, but the United States vs. Graham case was much too progressive
and technical to be solved with this doctrine (Ford, 2017, n.p.).