CA7: State cell phone tracking order issued with PC and was particular

Police got information that cell phone -5822 was used to arrange drug sales. They called the number and set up a few controlled buys. Then they got a state court tracking order for the phone. There is no indication that the tracking order was unreasonable. It was specific in its terms and it was issued with probable cause. Tracking the phone led to defendants’ houses. United States v. Harris, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 12920 (7th Cir. Apr. 30, 2021):

The court orders in this case satisfy the requirements for a search warrant. First, the defendants do not contend, and there is no reason to believe, that the state court judge who issued the orders was anything but neutral and detached. Next, the orders cited Rule 41 and found probable cause to believe that the cellphone tracking would lead to the apprehension of drug traffickers. Last, the orders particularly described the object of the search: the location of the -5822 phone. With respect to the particularity requirement, we have held that “a warrant authorizing police to follow an identified phone, to see where it goes and what numbers it calls, particularly describes the evidence to be acquired.” Sanchez-Jara, 889 F.3d at 421; accord Brewer, 915 F.3d at 414 (“Judges must describe the specific person, phone, or vehicle to be tracked to satisfy the Fourth Amendment’s particularity requirement.”) (emphasis added). It makes no difference that the court orders were not labeled “warrants,” or that they cited, in addition to Rule 41, other statutes including the Stored Communications Act. See Dalia, 441 U.S. at 256; Ning Wen, 477 F.3d at 898; Sanchez-Jara, 889 F.3d at 421.

We reject the defendants’ contention that the underlying affidavits did not supply probable cause. Probable cause for issuance of a search warrant exists if there is “a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.” Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983). The state court judge’s finding of probable cause “carries a strong presumption of correctness.” Sanchez-Jara, 889 F.3d at 421. Our task as “a reviewing court is simply to ensure that the [state court judge] had a substantial basis for concluding that probable cause existed.” Gates, 462 U.S. at 238-39 (internal quotations, citation, and alterations omitted).

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