Court says phone’s GPS data OK to use if warrant obtained

CARSON CITY — Retrieving Global Positioning System coordinates from a person’s cell phone so an arrest can be made is not an illegal search if a valid arrest warrant is obtained first, the Nevada Supreme Court said in an opinion issued Thursday.

The case involved Michael Meisler, who was appealing his conviction for aggravated stalking out of Douglas County District Court.

Meisler was in a relationship with Janice Tebo in 2011. After the relationship ended, Meisler sent her emails, text messages and letters, including references to the movie Fatal Attraction.

After investigating reports from Tebo, the Douglas County sheriff obtained a warrant for Meisler’s arrest. A sheriff’s investigator asked Meisler’s cell phone provider to retrieve his GPS coordinates, and the company complied.

Meisler then was arrested in a public parking lot.

A jury convicted him of the felony stalking charge, and he was sentenced to a maximum of 12 years in prison with parole eligibility after two years. An extended protective order of 20 years also was issued.

Meisler argued on appeal that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when officers used his GPS data to locate him because a search warrant was not obtained first, but the court disagreed.

“Because an arrest warrant would have justified an entry into Meisler’s home, an arrest warrant likewise justifies a digital entry into his cell phone to retrieve GPS coordinates for the purpose of locating him,” Justice Michael Cherry wrote in the unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the court.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter: @seanw801.

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