Carpenter Vs United States



Carpenter Vs United States

Student’s Name

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Carpenter Vs United States

Case Summary

Four men who were linked to a series of robberies at RadioShack and T-Mobile stores in Michigan and Ohio were arrested by police in April 2011. During the arrest, one of the suspects confessed to the crimes. He surrendered his phone number to the police together with that of other participants. This information was used by the FBI who sought from the court orders to access the transactional documents on every phone number, to which they were permitted within the storage under the communications Act, 2703 (d) of the U.S. constitution, 1994 (Fonzone et al., 2018). Among the suspects, Timothy Carpenter’s number had been provided to the law enforcement and as a result, his records were obtained.

Based on the Act, the government might demand for the disclosure of some specific telecommunications records where there is a reasonable ground to trust that the content pursued for is appropriate and material to a continuous criminal enquiry. Apparently, the material sought for by the prosecutors included the cell-site location information and the time-stamped record for the connections to the networks (Fonzone et al., 2018). While using the evidence from the cell-site, Timothy Carpenter was charged by the government for abetting and aiding robbery, among other offenses, that impacted interstate entrepreneur activity in desecration with the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C, 1951.Later, he was sentenced to 100 years in prison.


On his appeal against the conviction, the carpenter argued that the use of cell-site location information gathered by the FBI as evidence violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of America which safeguards the rights of privacy for the people (Fonzone et al., 2018). While employing the Sixth Circuit, the court dismissed his appeal holding that the accused did not have a judicious expectation to privacy in locating data as gathered by the FBI given that he had already collectively shared it with the wireless carriers. Therefore, he was not entitled to the protection of the Fourth Amendment.

Later Decision overview

The question is to whether obtaining of the cell phone location record established an exploration with an aim of the 14th Amendment, and whether it was constitutional. While interpreting on the principles of the Fourth Amendment in respect of the developing surveillance technology (Fonzone et al., 2018). Through this approach, the court noted that while its focus on the digital data did fit in the existing precedents as it were in the case of Boyd vs United States, 116 U. S. 616, 630 (1886), when addressing the expectation of an individual on privacy in terms of physical position and movement. The court highlighted the privacy concerns that were inherent in the case and noted that tracking of the cellphone positioning using the CSIL presented some privacy concerns.


While rejecting the government’s application, the court commented that the government was not simply questioning for a straight forward submission of the 3rd-doctrine, but a momentous extension of it to diverse categories of data. Accordingly, the court ruled that accessing of the individual’s cellphone location data was an unconstitutional search and therefore, a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Besides, the search fell short of the standard required by the probable cause.


Fonzone, C.C., Heinzelman, K., & Roberts, M.R. (2018). Carpenter v. United States: A Revolution in Fourth Amendment Jurisprudence? 4(9), 1-19.