Carpenter’s Legacy: Limiting the Scope of the Electronic Private Search Doctrine

Sarah A. Mezera*

One of the most significant challenges confronting courts and legal scholars in the twenty-first century is the application of Fourth Amendment doctrine to new technology. The circuit split over the application of the private search doctrine to electronic devices exemplifies how courts struggle to apply old doctrines to new circumstances. Some courts take the position that the old doctrine should apply consistently in the new context. Other courts have changed the scope of the old doctrine in order to account for the change in circumstances. The Supreme Court took the latter position in Carpenter v. United States and held that the third-party doctrine does not apply to cell-site location information records. The Court’s willingness to limit the scope of an established doctrine to preserve fundamental privacy interests suggests that Carpenter is just the beginning of a dramatic shift in Fourth Amendment law. This Note argues that the circuit split over the private search doctrine should be resolved by creating a narrow electronic private search doctrine based on the logic of Carpenter.

*J.D. Candidate, May 2019, University of Michigan Law School. I would like to thank my parents for all their love and support throughout my law school career. I would also like to thank every member of the Michigan Law Review who worked on and significantly improved this Note. Many special thanks to the Volume 117 Notes Office, Michael Abrams, Aviv Halpern, Ryan Marosy, Jun Ha Park, and Carolina Velarde, for being excellent editors, won- derful colleagues, and truly amazing friends.

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