On Mar. 4, 2022, a federal judge ruled that use of geofence data in a Virginia case violated the Fourth Amendment. The decision in US v. Chatrie is available here. A geofence is law enforcement use of Google location data to find people who were near a crime scene. Geofence searches have been used in NC cases since 2019 as described here and now account for one-quarter of all U.S. warrants that Google receives according to this article.
But a geofence warrant that provides location data on dozens or more innocent people for whom the government does not have probable cause to search is unconstitutionally overbroad. The Chatrie court said it was “difficult to overstate the breadth of this warrant” and rejected the government’s “inverted probable cause argument-that law enforcement may seek information based on probable cause that some unknown person committed an offense, and therefore search every person present nearby.”
Although the court found the warrant unconstitutional, it also found that the Leon “good faith” doctrine applied, and it therefore declined to suppress the fruits of the search. The motion was litigated by Mr. Chatrie’s public defender, Laura Koenig, and Michael Price of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Fourth Amendment Center.