The United States District Court for the District of Vermont just ruled on a Motion to Suppress, denying a Carpenter claim in the process where the Defendant argued that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy in another phone.
In this case, the Defendant is charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine base, possession with intent to distribute, and violation of the “crack house” statute (criminalizing the use of a private residence for drug use or distribution)
Here, the defendant contends that the government violated the Fourth Amendment by tracking a cell phone not in her possession, but in the possession of her co-defendant while he was a passenger in her vehicle.
State and federal agents began a controlled substance investigation into what has been termed “the Newport conspiracy”. These officers obtained federal search warrants for the co-defendants real-time cell phone location information. It is believed that the co-defendant used the phone to arrange multiple drug transactions with a confidential informant. Law enforcement got a warrant for cell site location information for this phone.
The defendant argued that even though she has no standing to challenge the validity of the warrant authorizing the real-time location monitoring of the co-defendant’s home, she had a reasonable expectation of privacy in her vehicle and her own real-time location information. She analogized it to the installation of a GPS tracking device that is unlawful per United States v. Jones.
The court reasoned that since there was no way the government could predict in advance that it would need a second search warrant for Defendant’s real-time location if she happened to be in proximity of the co-defendant’s home, it found that the defendant’s suggested approach is unworkable. “Even if Defendant possessed a reasonable expectation of privacy in her real-time location information, the government did not violate that expectation and was not required to obtain a second warrant prior to arresting her. Any other conclusion would lead to unworkable and unreasonable results.” (Citing, Riley v. California, 134 S. Ct. 2473, 2482, 189 L. Ed. 2d 430 (2014))
The case is United States v. Peters, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135794, (Dist. Vt.) (August 10).