It’s the second important legal decision related to the use of technology that New Jersey criminal defense attorneys have come across in just a week: A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that police can use a cell phone signal to trace a suspect, and that such actions do not constitute a violation of the individual’s rights to privacy.
Last week, a New Jersey appeals court ruled that the use of a GPS-tracking device by a suspicious wife to track her husband prior to a divorce did not constitute an invasion of the husband's privacy. That had been an important decision, considering that courts have been struggling with the reconciliation of the increasing use of technology with Fourth Amendment rights.
This week, another appeals court has ruled that a man who claimed that his privacy had been violated when police used signals from his cell phone to track him down did not really have his privacy invaded. The man had claimed that Middletown police tracked him down to his motel room in January 2006 using cell phone signals. According to the man, the police needed a warrant to access his location information from his cell phone service provider, T-Mobile. Since there was no warrant, the man claimed that any evidence that was discovered as a result of the use of that information could not be used against him.
The court has now ruled that there was no invasion of privacy because an individual cannot expect any privacy when he is driving on public streets. According to the ruling, law enforcement officers can use technology to conduct surveillance of public places and private property that are not protected by the Constitution. However, this decision does not apply to GPS tracking devices, which were involved in the divorce decision last week.