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Arizona Court Approves of Prosecutions Use of Cell Site Location Information over Defendant’s Challenge

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona homicide case discussing the propriety of the prosecution’s use of cell location site information (CLSI) taken from the defendant’s cell phone. Ultimately, the court reviewed recent Supreme Court case law, concluding that the prosecution’s use of the CLSI data did not violate the defendant’s constitutional rights, affirming his conviction.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a man was shot and killed outside a club as he sat in his car. Evidently, he was talking to a woman, CK, when two men walked up and shot the man. Police retrieved the cell phones of several witnesses, including CK. During their investigation, detectives discovered that one of the witnesses was in contact with a phone number that belonged to the defendant.

Police officers presented a judge with an ex parte order, seeking to obtain the defendant’s cell phone records. The court signed the order, noting that there was probable cause to believe that the information requested would be relevant to the crimes. Detectives used the information provided by the defendant’s cell carrier to link him to the crime. The defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the CLSI information was illegally obtained without a warrant. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, finding that the request was supported by probable cause. The jury convicted the defendant of murder, and the defendant appealed.

On appeal, the defendant renewed the argument he raised in his motion to suppress. Specifically, the defendant argued that under the 2015 case, Carpenter v. United States, the Supreme Court required a search warrant supported by probable cause to obtain CLSI data. In response, the prosecution argued that the ex parte order, although not a search warrant, was also supported by probable cause. Thus, according to the prosecution, it was the “functional equivalent” of a search warrant.

The court found in favor of the prosecution, noting that the defendant offered no reasoning to support the conclusion that the ex parte order was not supported by probable cause. The court pointed out that the trial judge made a specific finding that probable cause supported the detectives’ request, and that without some evidence as to why that was not the case, the court would not disturb the lower court’s determination. The court also agreed with the prosecution that the ex parte order was the “functional equivalent” of a search warrant.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona Crime?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a serious crime, contact Attorney James E. Novak for immediate assistance. Attorney Novak is an aggressive criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling a wide range of complex and high-stakes cases, including all types of Arizona violent crimes. He understands the challenges that criminal defendants face as they await trial, and makes sure to keep his clients informed of all case developments. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with Attorney Novak, call 480-413-1499 today.

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