U.S. Federal Judge Denies Motion to Suppress Jan. 6 Location Data

Avery Schmitz
Wednesday, January 25, 2023, 5:05 PM

The unusual circumstances of the Jan. 6 attack make location data gleaned from the geofence warrant especially viable, according to Federal Judge Rudolph Contreras.

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On Tuesday, a federal judge denied a motion to suppress Google Location History data obtained by the U.S. government with a “geofence” warrant in furtherance of charges levied against David Charles Rhine for his alleged participation in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. capitol. 

While Rhine claimed that a 4th amendment violation invalidated the warrant, the Court noted that even if the use of location data was deemed unconstitutional, a good faith exception would have been applied to allow the evidence at trial. Judge Rudolph Contreras dismissed the challenge, ruling that the unusual circumstances of the Jan. 6 attack criminally implicated virtually anybody within the determined 5-acre geofence between 2:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m on Jan. 6.

According to the opinion, the geofence warrant has provided the Department of Justice with data on just over 5,700 devices. Geofence warrants allow prosecutors to distinguish people whose identities are unknown but whose locations implicate them in an illegal act. The Justice Department has expressed interest in obtaining more comprehensive information on the activities of 1,498 of these users.

You can read the opinion here or below:

Avery Schmitz is a freelance researcher, covering violent extremism along the U.S.-Mexico border. In May of 2023, he graduated from the George Washington University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies. He was previously an intern at Lawfare.

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