D.C. appeals court rules warrantless stingray use unconstitutional.
D.C. appeals court rules warrantless stingray use unconstitutional.

D.C. Court of Appeals ruled the use of stingrays, or cell-site simulators, without a warrant is unconstitutional on the grounds of violating the Fourth Amendment resulting in the overturning of the conviction of a robbery and sexual assault suspect.

The courts once again determined the use of the device "to locate a person through his or her cellphone invades the person's actual, legitimate and reasonable expectation of privacy in his or her location information and is a search," officials said in court documents dated Sept. 21, 2017.  

The court further concluded that under ordinary circumstances the use of the devices to locate a through his or her cellphone invades the person's actual, legitimate and reasonable expectation of privacy in his or her location information and is a search.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation said the decision should serve as yet another warning to law enforcement that new technologies do not mean investigators can bypass the Constitution.

“If police want data from our devices, they should come back with a warrant,” the EFF said in a Sept 21. blog post.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee found U.S. between 2010 and 2014, taxpayers spent $95 million on 434 cell-site simulator devices averaging $500,000 per device.