12 INVESTIGATES: Warrantless cell phone searches - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

12 INVESTIGATES: Warrantless cell phone searches

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Do police need a warrant to track you down with your cell phone? A major court ruling says no.

The 2 to 1 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals means police officers don't need probable cause when asking a telephone company to help them track a person down. The ruling overturns a lower court decision that said police needed a warrant to get that information.

Your phone isn't just a phone anymore. It's also a tracking device, and police are dialing up the cell phone companies more and more, often asking for specific information - like a user's whereabouts or even call log.

In response to a congressional inquiry, the top cell phone companies finally revealed just how many times they've handed over user's cellphone data to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

Turns out, they responded to an estimated 1.3 million demands for subscribers information last year alone.

Law enforcement argues tracking cell phones without warrants can save lives. Investigators say they do it if they need to solve a crime or if they believe somebody is in danger.

In February, we uncovered that Richmond, Chesterfield and Henrico County all use this tactic.

According to the ruling, you buy the cell phone with the understanding it must send a signal to a nearby cell tower. The court says that data is clearly a business record and can be collected by investigators.

The American Civil Liberties Union calls the decision a big blow to American's privacy rights. This case could ultimately end up in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Copyright 2013 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.

  • Latest news from NBC12.comNEWSMore>>

  • The Latest: Justice Dept. calls executive order 'stopgap'

    The Latest: Justice Dept. calls executive order 'stopgap'

    Wednesday, June 20 2018 12:01 PM EDT2018-06-20 16:01:56 GMT
    Wednesday, June 20 2018 6:58 PM EDT2018-06-20 22:58:32 GMT
    (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File). FILE - In this Wednesday, June 13, 2018 file photo, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly session of PMQs at parliament in London. The British government is facing anoth...(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File). FILE - In this Wednesday, June 13, 2018 file photo, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly session of PMQs at parliament in London. The British government is facing anoth...
    British Prime Minister Theresa May says the United States is wrong to separate migrant children from their parents, but has rejected calls to cancel President Donald Trump's visit to Britain next month.More >>
    British Prime Minister Theresa May says the United States is wrong to separate migrant children from their parents, but has rejected calls to cancel President Donald Trump's visit to Britain next month.More >>
  • FIRST ALERT FORECAST: Less Heat, Still humid with strong storms possible

    FIRST ALERT FORECAST:

    Wednesday, June 20 2018 6:48 PM EDT2018-06-20 22:48:49 GMT

    Get the latest forecast from the NBC12 First Alert Weather team.

    More >>

    Get the latest forecast from the NBC12 First Alert Weather team.

    More >>
  • Get an up-close look at the GRTC Pulse service

    Get an up-close look at the GRTC Pulse service

    Wednesday, June 20 2018 6:26 PM EDT2018-06-20 22:26:37 GMT
    GRTC Pulse will officially debut on June 24. (Source: NBC12)GRTC Pulse will officially debut on June 24. (Source: NBC12)

    The long-awaited GRTC Pulse transit service is just days away and on Wednesday members of the media got a first-hand look at the buses and new routes. 

    More >>

    The long-awaited GRTC Pulse transit service is just days away and on Wednesday members of the media got a first-hand look at the buses and new routes. 

    More >>
Powered by Frankly