In re: Application of the U.S. for Historical Cell Site Data, No. 11-20884 (5th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
The Government filed three applications under section 2703 of the Stored Communications Act (SCA), 18 U.S.C. 2701-2712, seeking evidence relevant to three separate criminal investigations. At issue on appeal was whether court orders authorized by the Act to compel cell phone service providers to produce the historical cell site information of their subscribers were per se unconstitutional. The court concluded that cell site data are business records and should be analyzed under that line of Supreme Court precedent; because the magistrate judge and district court treated the data as tracking information, they applied the wrong legal standard; using the proper framework, the Act's authorization of section 2703(d) orders for historical cell site information if an application meets the lesser "specific and articulable facts" standard, rather than the Fourth Amendment probable cause standard, was not per se unconstitutional; and as long as the Government met the statutory requirements, the Act did not give the magistrate judge discretion to deny the Government's application for such an order. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded with instructions to grant the applications.