New Jersey Supreme Court Rules: Reasonable Expectation of Privacy in Cell Phone Location

On July 18, 2013, The Supreme Court of New Jersey held in State v. Earls (14-1-0706) that Article I, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution protects a citizen’s privacy interest in the location of his or her cell phone. Police must obtain a warrant based on a showing of probable cause, or qualify for an exception to the warrant requirement, to obtain tracking information through the use of a cell phone.

A basic cell phone operates like a scanning radio and contacts the nearest cell site towers every seven seconds. Cell phones can be tracked so long as they are not turned off. With advances in technology, cell-phone providers today can pinpoint the location of a person’s cell phone with increasing accuracy.

The Court held that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, and that cell phones are not meant to serve as tracking devices to locate their owners wherever they may be. Without a warrant, law enforcement in New Jersey will not be able to obtain information regarding the location of a citizen’s cell phone. Should you have questions about this area of the law, please contact attorney, Michael Mormando, at the law firm of Attorneys Hartman, Chartered.

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