SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - A major court ruling in New Jersey could change the way police track cell phones in other states.
Not too long ago, we found out the federal government can and in many cases is tracking our cell phones without our knowledge. Police in New Jersey are no longer allowed to do that without a judge's approval.
It's up for debate whether people feel law enforcement should be able to track our phones without our consent.
"I do agree it's kind of a catch 22 because yes you want your privacy but I do believe law enforcement does need to have that ability to track people, especially with certain cases, with everything going on these days with terrorism," said Springfield's Curtis Jones.
In New Jersey, the debate is over. The state's Supreme Court ruled that police need a warrant and to prove probable cause before gaining access to cell phone tracking data.
Although the ruling only directly affects law enforcement in New Jersey, it can be used in arguments in other states.
Some people feel the ruling won't even impact people who break the law. "Most people know, if the police are investigating them for doing something, they're going to buy a prepaid cell phone with no name on it," said West Springfield's Robert Testa.
Privacy groups say it's the first time a state's Supreme Court has ruled on such an issue although it's not a new concept.
Springfield Police Sgt. John Delaney says obtaining warrants and showing probable cause is routine. "Even if it's a case of murder, somebody is wanted for murder, we know they have a cell phone, they're wanted and we know they're somewhere in Western Massachusetts then we'll go and get a court order from a judge, we have to state probable cause as to why we're going after the trace on the phone."
Delaney adds they can track your phone in an emergency in cases involving abduction and amber alerts.