Northern District of California declines to suppress search warrant based on non-good faith retrieval of Real-time CSLI, finding attenuation

In this case, the District Court was considering a motion to suppress real-time cell-site location information (CSLI), pen register and trap and trace device information, and a cell-site simulator device. This data was utilized to locate the defendant and get a search warrant for his residence.

The defendant came to police attention because an officer purportedly recognized him on security video during a robbery. Despite other information gathered which led to an arrest warrant, the Defendant could not be located. This led to the request for an electronic communication court order for the phone they believed belonged to the Defendant, using, among others, the above-mentioned means to find him in 2011. After a lengthy discussion of the facts and the law as it existed in 2011, the District Court found that the FBI agent’s use of a pen register did not follow the law as she did not obtain the appropriate Stored Communications Act Order.

The District Court found that this non-compliance with the SCA was negligence, and thus, the deterrence rationale of the exclusionary rule did not apply. In a long opinion, the Court decided that other officers who later sought the warrant in question were not aware of stautory non-compliance, meaning that although this one agent did not act in objective good faith, other agents who sought the subsequent search warrant that was being challenged did act in good faith.

The case is United States v. Chavez, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33210, 2019 WL 1003357 N.D. California (March 1, 2019).

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