Warrantless Searches in the Carpenter Age

By Daniel K. Gelb and Ronald J. Hedges

In Carpenter v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 2206 (2018), the US Supreme Court extended the Warrant Requirement of the Fourth Amendment to cell-site location information (CSLI). Four years earlier, the Supreme Court held that electronically stored information (ESI) residing on a cell phone could not be searched incident to arrest. (See Riley v. California, 134 S. Ct. 2473, 189 L. Ed. 2d 430 (2014).) These decisions reflect the Court’s concern over warrantless searches of ESI and call into question the future contours of the “third-party” doctrine established by Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979) and United States v. Miller, 425 U.S. 435 (1976). Yet, both Carpenter and Riley emphasized that warrantless searches for ESI may pass constitutional muster. How might these decisions be reconciled with the Exclusionary Rule?

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