Prosectors are shifting their focus to warrantless cell-tower locational tracking of suspects in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that law enforcement should acquire probable-cause warrants from judges to affix GPS devices to vehicles and monitor their every move, according to court records.
The change of strategy comes in the case the justices decided in January, when it reversed the life sentence of a District of Columbia area drug dealer, Antoine Jones, who was the subject of 28 days of warrantless GPS surveillance via a device the FBI secretly attached to his vehicle without a warrant. In the wake of Jones’ decision, the FBI has pulled the plug on 3,000 GPS tracking devices.
In a Friday filing in pre-trial proceedings of Jones retrial, Jones attorney’ said the government has five months worth of a different kind of locational tracking information on his client: So-called cell-site information, obtained without a warrant, chronicling where Jones was when he made and received mobile phone calls in 2005.
“In this case, the government seeks to do with cell site data what it cannot do with the suppressed GPS data,” attorney Eduardo Balarezo wrote (.pdf) U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle.