Criminal Justice System
Case 1: Timothy Ivory Carpenter v. United States
Summary of the Case
Four men were arrested in association with a series of armed thefts. After interrogation, one of the culprits provided evidence that would be useful in the court of law. However, as a way of complying with the law, the FBI had to apply for a warrant to search and seize the evidence. After the search, Carpenter was charged with aiding an armed robber that affected the states’ commerce. While the FBI obtained the warrant, it also conducted a warrantless search on the petitioner’s cell-site information, which led to a successful suit for appeal.
Procedural History of the Case
In the context, the two schemers, Timothy Sanders and Timothy Carpenter, were charged with aiding theft; thus, affecting federal commerce. The defendants were also charged with carrying a firearm in the defilement of the Hobbs act (“Carpenter v. United States,” n.d). For this reason, they were tried in the district court, which found Carpenter guilty of the offense.
Nonetheless, Carpenter was not satisfied with the court ruling. Thus, he confronted the decision by moving a motion on the grounds of the Fourth Amendment (“Carpenter v. United States,” n.d). Unfortunately, the motion was denied by the district court. In addition, the Sixth Circuit also affirmed the district court’s decision. After denial of the motion, the case wound up in the Supreme Court, where Carpenter filed for a petition.
The Key Facts of the Case
The police arrested four men in association with a sequence of armed thefts. One man admitted to the wrongdoings and offered the FBI some substantial evidence regarding transactional records associated with the theft. The FBI used the information given by the culprit and applied for three orders to enable them to obtain the transactional records. The magistrate judges offered the three orders and the FBI received transactional records concerning the date, locations, as well as time that the calls were made (“Carpenter v. United States,” n.d). Based on the evidence obtained, Carpenter was charged with helping and supporting theft. Carpenter wanted to overwhelm this evidence but the district court denied his motion, and afterward, the sixth course affirmed.
Appellate Court Decision and Reasoning of the Court
The court held that cell-site search by the government qualified as a Fourth Amendment search; thus, a warrant was required to seize Carpenter’s cell-site information. Notably, the Fourth Amendment protects individuals against unreasonable searches without a warrant. For this reason, the FBI warrantless search against Carpenter was ruled as a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Legal Questions That Were Argued Before the SCOTUS and Decision
In the context, the leading legal question of the case was whether the warrantless search of cell phone records, which included the location and movements of cell phone users, violated the Fourth Amendment (“Carpenter v. United States,” n.d). In response to the question, it was decided that the warrantless search was indeed a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Supreme Court Justice Writing the Majority Opinion
The Supreme Court’s majority opinion approved that the Fourth Amendment guards the property interests as well as reasonable prospects of privacy. Besides, prospects concerning privacy at the era of digital data did not fit gracefully into existing models (“Carpenter v. United States,” n.d). Therefore, tracking individuals’ locations and movements through cell-site records is disturbing than the models might have expected. However, the dissenters held the opinion that the search was not conducted against Carpenter’s property; hence, the FBI did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Nonetheless, the minority opinion on the petition was overruled.
Based on the analysis of the case, I would concur with the decision made by the court. Markedly, the orders issued to the FBI gave them the authority to search the cell-site information belonging to Timothy Sanders. Thus, the warrantless search on Carpenter was a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Carpenter v. United States. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved from https://www.oyez.org/cases/2017/16-402