Carpenter v. U.S. - Supreme Court Agrees to Hear a Case that Could Affect Criminal Defense in a Technologically Advanced Age. Part I: the Case

Posted by Josh Valentine | Nov 29, 2017

Two hundred years before cell phones, the founding fathers enacted the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protect our citizens' privacy. After suffering and escaping the King's “general” search and seizure activities without any warrants, much less probable cause, the colonies stood against any such activities, albeit after years of debate. The result was the Fourth Amendment. Fast forward to 2011. A gunman named Carpenter was arrested and convicted based, in part, on evidence gathered from cell tower site data without a warrant. The case and Carpenter's criminal defense sparked a deeper analysis and examination of privacy protection afforded citizens in the Fourth Amendment. On November 29, 2017, the United States Supreme Court will deliberate about how much latitude law enforcement may employ in conducting surveillance in a modern, digital world.

Carpenter vs. U.S. Case

The potentially paradigm-changing case facts of the Carpenter vs. U.S. case begin with a group of Detroit individuals conspiring and executing armed robberies in Michigan and Ohio. Ironically, the robbery ring targeted cell phones, and cell phone and electronics stores. The modus operandi of the group involved entering the stores with guns blazing, ordering all of the customers to the rear of the store, and instructing all the employees to empty the new cell phones into bags. In April 2011, four were captured, arrested, and charged. Authorities seized a cell phone from one of the arrested men after he confessed and agreed to comply with the investigation. FBI officials then ordered data derived from transactional records reflecting subscriber information, toll records, and call details of listed and unlisted numbers. A magistrate judge granted the request for records according to the Stored Communications Act.

The records revealed Carpenter's cell phone was engaged with cell towers within a two-mile radius of four of the robberies. Armed with the evidence, the FBI arrested him and filed charges. Eventually, he was convicted by a jury and sentenced to 1395 months or 116 years in federal prison for aiding and abetting the use or carriage of a firearm during a federal crime of violence. Carpenter was remanded to federal prison and began serving his sentence.

Request for Judicial Review

In 2015, Carpenter's criminal defense team filed an appeal. His 2015 appeal attempt failed when his conviction and sentence was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals to the Sixth Circuit Court. Then, in 2016, Carpenter petitioned for a writ of certiorari which was answered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation by filing an amicus curiae brief in support of Carpenter. When the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the Carpenter vs. U.S. case, digital entities worldwide will be paying attention. The case illuminates the value of our citizen's privacy as it is measured against safety and law enforcement's ability to rapidly track and investigate suspects utilizing cell phone tower data without a warrant.

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About the Author

Josh Valentine

You could say Josh has a God-given ability for sustaining long-term relationships. He and his wife first met in elementary school and went to Gardner Webb University (GWU) together, where they tied for number 1 in their class. Then, they both started law school on the same day of their graduation and got married during their first semester. He has also known his law partner Blake Caulder since Kindergarten. Theirs is the perfect partnership. “He’s the brake; I am the accelerator,” Josh says. Both Josh and his wife attended an innovative program at Charlotte Law School that allowed them to complete law school in two years instead of the typical three. His wife graduated and passed the North Carolina bar at age 20, becoming one of the youngest attorneys in the state. He readily admits she’s smarter than him. Of course, Josh went on to pass the North Carolina State Bar himself and later the South Carolina State Bar. While in school, he was Associate Editor of the Law Review and received accolades like Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society membership, Order of the Crown, Pro Bono Honors, CALI Awards (highest grade). In his career as a lawyer, he has been admitted to the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, is a member of the American Association of Premier DUI Attorneys, and completed training for DWI Detection & Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. Josh has also been named to the Top 40 Under 40 for Criminal Defense by The National Trial Lawyers, the Business North Carolina 2019 Legal Elite for Criminal Defense, and the 10 Best Attorneys for Client Satisfaction by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys three years in a row (2016, 2017, and 2018). Community involvement has been important to Josh all his life. In high school, he participated in building a Holocaust museum that has become internationally regarded. He and his wife are actively engaged in animal rescue, which currently means seven cats and two kittens. He served in prison ministry and assisted with fundraiser banquets there, and he provides pro bono and reduced fee legal services to those in need. As if all of that weren’t enough, Josh also mentors high risk youth and helps with his church’s youth group. He participates in other community volunteer projects involving construction, remodeling, drywall, painting, and landscaping. He’s an active student of the Bible and has traveled to Israel, Brazil, and Europe for mission work. No one can say Josh isn’t a well-rounded individual. In his spare time, he likes to play softball, basketball, and tennis, and he can play the piano and trombone. Sometimes on weekends, believe it or not, he enjoys pouring and finishing concrete with friends who own a concrete and grading business. In his law practice, Josh has made it a point to develop positive relationships with officers, clerks, and district attorneys, which has proven invaluable in delivering positive results for his clients. It’s important to him to both listen to his clients and fight for them. Law enforcement officers have important responsibilities to keep our communities safe and uphold the law, but one of the responsibilities of attorneys is to make sure officers do their job correctly. Josh considers it his job to hold them accountable for their actions. Josh is a person of deep faith. He knows that the established order of our universe and strength of America’s Judeo-Christian influenced court system is built on God’s word. His passion to serve each client with innovation, excellence and integrity is a byproduct of his faith. When asked why he became a lawyer, Josh says, “All through my life, I have personally witnessed family members and very close friends endure divorce, child custody battles, bankruptcy, civil lawsuits, and even fraudulent criminal accusations. I both saw and experienced the stress such events can place on an individual, and I realized that everyone, at some point in their life, needs hope, comfort, and encouragement. In each one of those situations, the person who was best situated to provide that vital support was their lawyer. So that’s why I became an attorney. I understand what you are going through, and I’m here to help you. Our office is focused on meeting your needs and guiding you through what may be the most difficult time of your life.” Education: Charlotte School of Law J.D., Magna Cum Laude Class Rank – 21 of 328 Associate Editor of Charlotte School of Law Law Review Certification and Concentration in Employment Law Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society Order of the Crown Pro Bono Honors CALI Awards (Highest Grade)—Lawyering Process I and Contracts I Full Scholarship Gardner-Webb University B.S. in Accounting, Summa Cum Laude Distinguished Senior Student Award – Highest GPA Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honorary Society Bar Admissions: North Carolina State Bar