Cell phone privacy case of Michigan criminal goes to U.S. Supreme Court

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A metro Detroit area man is convicted in a series of armed robberies in Michigan and Ohio - but his right to cell phone privacy could wipe that out.

He is appealing because of how police got ahold of cell phone records used to make the case against him - now the US Supreme Court will weigh in.

Timothy Carpenter will spend the next 116 years in federal prison - but this case could reverse that decision.

"Cell phones were probably the size of a brick at that time, things have changed a great deal," said attorney Harold Gurewitz.

Well-known defense attorney Harold Gurewitz along with the ACLU says that it is time the law changes too.

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear a landmark case that could change how law enforcement obtains cell phone location records.

Gurewitz says technology has evolved and advanced since the 1986 Stored Communication Act - which says the government does not to show probable cause to get customer cell phone records.

"People have cell phones with them all the time, use them for all the details of their lives without knowing the records of how or when they use their phones could become available by the government," Gurewitz said.

All of this stems from a 2011 federal case Gurewitz defended when his client, 32 -year-old Timothy Carpenter, was convicted for robbing several cell phone stores in Michigan and one in Ohio, sent to prison for the rest of his life. 

Coincidentally, federal investigators obtained months’ worth of cell phone location records which helped show where Carpenter was when he made and received calls in the general area of the robberies.

That evidence helped lead to his conviction - evidence Gurewitz says was obtained without a search warrant.

"It is our position the evidence shouldn't have been used at trial and if it had an impact on the trial," he said. "If it was material and harmful then it should result in reversal of his conviction."

At trial, prosecutors said Carpenter organized many of the robberies supplied the firearms and acted as the look out, but Gurewitz says that's not what this supreme court case is about.

"What this case is really about is whether people have a right to privacy in records that are created with cell phones," he said.