The ACLU has filed a amicus brief in a case being handled by the Law Office of C. Justin Brown. The case, United States v. Harrison, presents a cutting-edge legal issue: whether Baltimore City Police violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights when it used a Stingray device to track his phone. (Click HERE to read more.)
Stingrays, also known as cell site simulators, are an emerging technology that allow law enforcement officers to locate cellular phones and even retrieve information from the phones. The technology is intrusive, meaning it disrupts the normal functioning of the phone — and other phones in the area. Essentially, a cell site simulator tricks the phone into thinking it is a cellular tower, thereby causing the phone to send information to it.
Authorities on all levels have been extremely tight-lipped about this technology. In most cases they are using it without anybody knowing. The authorities have taken the position that the specifics of the technology are privileged, and they do not have to disclose basic information about how the devices work.
In U.S. v. Harrison, a Stingray was used to locate and develop the defendant as a suspect. Harrison argues that the use of the device amounted to a Fourth Amendment search of the phone, his person and his home, and it was not properly authorized by a judge.
The ACLU filed its brief — as a friend of the court — because it considers the issue to be an important matter concerning privacy rights, Government intrusion and the Fourth Amendment. It is rare for the ACLU to become in involved with a federal criminal case at the district court level.