Catholic University Law Review


“Where are you” is a common question to receive on your cellphone, but it is up to you whether or not to respond with an answer. No longer does this question need to be asked due to advancements in surveillance technology. When pinpointing a criminal suspect, the question can be answered by local and state agencies, without the person of interest knowing, by using a StingRay device. The main question to be asked is does the conduct of locating a criminal suspect’s exact location without a warrant, violate an individual’s Fourth Amendment Constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches. Some states have laws addressing the answer, and others do not.

This Comment will investigate the impact of the StingRay device on an individual’s Fourth Amendment right and how state and local law enforcement will know whether they require a warrant when using the device. Part I explains how the U.S. Supreme Court has adapted to the changes in technology regarding privacy rights, as well as how some states have dealt with this issue. Part II analyzes how smartphones in public and private areas should not factor into the analysis of whether a warrant is valid. Part III proposes how state legislatures and judges can help protect the privacy rights of the citizens of their states. Part IV concludes that, with regard to smartphones, there is always a reasonable expectation of privacy, which requires a valid warrant before any government intrusion. This Comment advocates that the state legislatures that lack legislation specifically addressing the StingRay device should adopt one, as it would strike a more equitable balance between individual privacy rights and the government’s interests in enforcing its laws.