A federal judge has thrown out evidence obtained illegally through the use of a device known as a “Stingray,” “Hailstorm,’ or “Triggerfish.” The device acts by tricking cell phones in a certain range to show their location; it does this by acting as a cell phone tower.
U.S. District Judge William Pauley ruled Tuesday that defendant Raymond Lambis’ rights were violated when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration used it without a warrant to find his apartment, writing, “Absent a search warrant, the government may not turn a citizen’s cell phone into a tracking device.”
“Here, the use of the cell-site simulator to obtain more precise information about the target phone’s location was not contemplated by the original warrant application,” the judge added. “If the Government had wished to use a cell-site simulator, it could have obtained a warrant.”
Under the Fourth Amendment, prosecutors must show probable cause to a judge to support specific things and persons to be searched that will show evidence of a crime. In the 1928 case of Olmstead vs. the U.S., Justice Louis Brandeis issued a warning about advances in technology, and how they would be used by the government to violate our right of privacy:
“The progress of science in furnishing the Government with means of espionage is not likely to stop with wiretapping. Ways may someday be developed by which the Government, without removing papers from secret drawers, can reproduce them in court, and by which it will be enabled to expose to a jury the most intimate occurrences of the home…”