United States v. Harris, No. 20-2234 (7th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
An informant gave South Bend police the number to a phone used by drug dealers. Officers conducted controlled buys in which confidential informants or undercover officers called the number and followed instructions to buy heroin. Officers then submitted an affidavit to a state court judge and obtained a "court order," requiring the phone’s service provider to share 30 days of precise, real-time GPS location data for the phone. The investigation led to two men at the top of the drug-trafficking conspiracy, Gibson and Harris. The district court denied their pre-trial motion to suppress evidence obtained through the cellphone tracking. Officers and cooperators testified to the large-scale drug-trafficking scheme that the defendants had overseen. Both were convicted of conspiring to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin. At sentencing, the court found that the defendants had conspired to distribute a total of 10.5 kilograms of heroin.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed, upholding the denial of the motion to suppress, the drug-quantity calculations, and the court’s limits on cross-examination of the cooperators about the specific sentences they hoped to avoid by testifying for the government. The court orders for the cellphone data satisfied the requirements for a search warrant: the judge who issued the orders was neutral and found probable cause to believe that the cellphone tracking would lead to the apprehension of drug traffickers and the orders particularly described the object of the search.