MONTH-IN-BRIEF (Feb 2022)
Fourth Circuit Upholds Warrantless Search of Cell Phone Data, Citing Exigent Circumstances
By Chey Goodman, Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law
In United States v. Hobbs, 24 F.4th 965 (4th Cir. 2022), the Fourth Circuit affirmed denial of a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained through a warrantless search of his cell phone location data and call logs.
On February 3, 2018, the defendant broke into his ex-girlfriend’s home to remove a television. While there, he brandished a handgun and threatened to “kill [her], her daughter, and other family members, and stated that if she contacted the police, he would also kill any responding officers.” Id. at 2. When speaking to a detective about the incident, the ex-girlfriend warned that the defendant was “obsessed” with firearms. Upon this, police used an exigent form to obtain “pings” of defendant’s cell phone location and call logs, which they then used to apprehend him in a traffic stop a few hours later. Defendant fled in his car, eventually crashing into a parked vehicle where he was arrested, and a loaded handgun was recovered from the scene. He was charged and convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g).