A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that a probable-cause warrant under the Fourth Amendment is required for the police to obtain a suspect’s cell-site data.

The decision by the Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals gives the Supreme Court, which has never ruled on the issue, ammunition to resolve a modern-day privacy controversy affecting the tens of millions of American mobile phone users. Until Wednesday, all the federal appellate courts that have decided the issue have ruled for the government’s proposition that cell-site records are not constitutionally protected.
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