Judge throws out evidence collected from ‘Stingray’ device in a criminal case
This from a previous article I wrote back in 2014: The government and some police departments have these devices called “Stingrays” which are able to create a fake cellphone tower. When a cellphone enters what I guess you would call a Stingray zone it is tricked into connecting to it. The government can then use this technology to locate the cellphone user.
I can see where under the right circumstances, and when using the proper procedure, this could be a legitimate law enforcement tool. However, according to this article the Florida police may have abused this technology by not getting a proper probable-cause warrant. The ACLU filed a FOIA request and were set to review the documents.
This is where the story gets interesting. Apparently just before the ACLU could review the documents Federal Marshals swarmed in and seized them.
And then in a follow up article: Today a Florida judge was forced to throw out the case because the court has no authority over the Federal government. The ACLU is not pleased and has vowed to get to these documents.
With that background behind us we fast forward to today: Earlier today a judge threw out evidence which was gathered using a Stingray device because the evidence was gathered without a proper warrant. Here is more:
For the first time, a federal judge has suppressed evidence obtained without a warrant by U.S. law enforcement using a stingray, a surveillance device that can trick suspects’ cell phones into revealing their locations.
U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan on Tuesday ruled that defendant Raymond Lambis’ rights were violated when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration used such a device without a warrant to find his Washington Heights apartment.
The DEA had used a stingray to identify Lambis’ apartment as the most likely location of a cell phone identified during a drug-trafficking probe. Pauley said doing so constituted an unreasonable search.
“Absent a search warrant, the government may not turn a citizen’s cell phone into a tracking device,” Pauley wrote.
The ruling marked the first time a federal judge had suppressed evidence obtained using a stingray, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which like other privacy advocacy groups has criticized law enforcement’s use of such devices.
“This opinion strongly reinforces the strength of our constitutional privacy rights in the digital age,” ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler said in a statement.
Notice the way the article frames this decision by saying the judge “suppressed evidence?” I do not believe this is the proper term to describe what happened because it implies there was a cover up when in fact the judge ruled that this man’s Constitutionally guaranteed right was violated and that is a huge difference. Even if the man was breaking the law he still has his Constitutionally protected rights, the end does not justify the means.
In my opinion even though an alleged criminal was allowed to walk free this was the proper decision because, as the judge stated, the government cannot turn a cellphone into a tracking device. The ACLU is 100% right on this one!
malo periculosam libertatem quam quietum servitium