In March 2016, police were notified of a loud argument at an apartment in Seattle, Washington. By the time police arrived at Solomon McLemore's apartment, the argument had subsided, but police say they heard the sound of glass shattering inside. For 15 minutes, the police engaged in an argument with McLemore about whether he should open the door.
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable government searches and seizures. The general rule is that the government needs a warrant, or an exception to the warrant requirement, for a search or seizure to be constitutional. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that no warrant or even probable cause is required for customs officers to search at the U.S. border or 100 miles into the interior in what is called the "border zone." The border zone includes Houston, San Antonio and even New Braunfels.
In what was considered a major victory for personal privacy advocates, the U.S. Supreme court has restricted law enforcement's ability to use cellphone location data in the course of criminal investigations. A 1979 precedent had given some the impression that this data could be obtained using a mere court order. The recent ruling makes clear that police ordinarily need a warrant for the information.
The Supreme Court has long ruled that homes and their associated premises deserve special protection from overzealous law enforcement searches. While police are generally required by the Fourth Amendment to get warrants before conducting searches, there are a wide variety of exceptions to that rule. When it comes to the home and what the courts call the home's "curtilage," however, courts scrutinize those exceptions carefully.
When you send in your genetic material to have an ancestry DNA test done, is that material private? Major commercial providers of these tests say they won't hand the data over to law enforcement without a court order. That may not mean much, as we recently learned in the "Golden State Killer" case.
When the Drug Enforcement Administration wanted to access a drug crime suspect's emails, the agency got a warrant. Unfortunately, the most up-to-date law authorizing such warrants is the 1986 Stored Communications Act. That law was written long before cloud storage, so Congress could not have contemplated how it would be used in this case.