Sims v. Texas (original by judge hervey)Annotate this Case
Appellant Christian Sims was charged with murder. He filed a pretrial motion to suppress evidence of real-time location information used to track his cell phone by “pinging” it without a warrant. Using that information, police found and arrested him. In his motion to suppress, Appellant argued that the police violated the Fourth Amendment when they searched his phone for real-time location information. He also contended that the search violated the federal Stored Communications Act (the SCA), and articles 18.21 and 38.23(a) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The trial court denied Appellant’s motion, and Appellant pled guilty pursuant to a plea bargain. The judge sentenced him to 35 years’ confinement. As part of the agreement, he reserved the right to appeal the trial court’s ruling. The court of appeals affirmed the ruling of the trial court. Appellant filed a petition for discretionary review by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which was granted on two grounds: (1) whether suppression is a remedy for a violation of the SCA or Article 18.21; and (2) whether a person was entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy in real-time CSLI records stored in a cell phone’s electronic storage. The Court concluded suppression was not an available remedy under the Stored Communications Act unless the violation also violated the United States Constitution. And suppression was not an available remedy for a violation of Article 18.21 unless the violation infringed on the United States or Texas constitutions. Under the facts of this case, Appellant did not have an expectation of privacy in the real-time location information stored in his phone. Therefore, the Court affirmed the court of appeals' judgment.