United States v. Chatrie, No. 3:19-cr-130 (E.D. Va.)

In United States v. Chatrie, No. 3:19-cr-130 (E.D. Va.), Okello Chatrie was charged with armed robbery based on Google Sensorvault data obtained by law enforcement via a geofence warrant. Chatrie is represented by Michael Price, Senior Litigation Counsel for the Fourth Amendment Center, and Laura Koenig, a public defender in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Key Documents

― Geofence Search Warrant
― Motion to Suppress Geofence Warrant
― Defendant's Reply - Motion to Suppress
― Supplemental Motion to Suppress



― Geofence Discovery Motion
Motion to Seal Raw Data Returns Provided by Google
― Supplemental Brief on the Application of Brady and Rule 16 to a Suppression Hearing
― Defendant's Reply to Government's Supplemental Brief


Amicus Briefs

― Amicus Brief by Google, LLC In Support of Neither Party
― Defendant's Response to Google's Amicus Brief


Subpoena to Google

― Motion for Subpoena Duces Tecum
― Order Granting Subpoena to Google
― Google Affidavits Responding to Subpoena
― Motion for a Second Subpoena Duces Tecum


All of the case documents are publicly available here.



Google’s Geofence Warrants Face a Major Legal Challenge.

(OneZero) No matter how it is decided, United States v. Chatrie will likely spark other cases. If some succeed and are appealed, that would bump the issue up to the higher courts and maybe — especially if judges disagree — into a Supreme Court case that changes the law. A flurry of litigation might also convince lawmakers to pass federal legislation that either bans geofence warrants or spells out how they should be executed.

Defense challenges use of Google location data from everyone in vicinity of Hull Street Road bank robbery.

(Richmond Times-Dispatch) Chatrie’s lawyers with the federal public defender office and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers argue in their suppression motion that Lauck 'should treat the geofence warrant here as any other general warrant: repugnant to the Constitution. Geofence warrants represent an unprecedented expansion of the government’s surveillance capabilities.'

Do Geofence Warrants Violate the Fourth Amendment?

(Lawfare) Unlike traditional warrants that identify a particular suspect in advance of a search, geofence warrants essentially allow the government to work backward. These warrants compel a technology company (so far, only Google) to disclose anonymized location records for any devices in a certain area during a specified time period. 

Alleged bank robber accuses police of illegally using Google location data to catch him.

(The Washington Post) Prosecutors called the case the first of its kind, though the issue has come up in other states, including New YorkNorth CarolinaFlorida and Minnesota. Experts expect that geofence warrants will be the next big Fourth Amendment battle in digital privacy.

Police used Google location data to find an accused bank robber. He says that's illegal.

(NBC News) As more police use such warrants, the method is raising concerns among privacy advocates, who say the government is gathering information from people in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches.

What Is A Geofence Warrant? Bank Robbery Accused Snagged Using Google Maps Location Data.

(International Business Times) Though geofencing warrants proved to be a powerful weapon for investigators, the practice has been criticised for its diluting effect on the Fourth Amendment right. That exactly is Chatrie’s defense.

An accused bank robber claims the police broke the law when they used Google location data to track him down. Privacy advocates agree.

(Insider) In theory, the geofence warrant attempts to take the idea of a physical crime scene and reimagine it for an internet-connected world. But that can lead to situations where innocent bystanders may have their personal information sucked up by police in wholesale ways that wouldn't have happened before the ubiquity of internet-connected smartphones.

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