Lawsuit over Stingray use by Sarasota Police thrown out by judge

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- A local judge has made the decision to throw out a lawsuit filed against the City of Sarasota over a public records request related to cell phone tracking equipment. Now an attorney representing the ACLU in that case is reacting, and so are Sarasota residents.

The ACLU of Florida sued the city for information from the police department about use of the "Stingray" device. Working as a small cell phone tower, the technology can track down criminals, but can also affect innocent bystanders.

In the ruling Tuesday, the judge said that the records belonged to the federal government, and are not subject to Florida's Sunshine Law.

So is this invention an invasion of privacy, or a crime-fighting necessity?

“This is a time in history where our Constitutional rights are even more significant than ever, because now the government has the opportunity to invade our privacy through electronic devices that can go so much further in our homes, heads, pockets, bank accounts, medical records, without our knowledge,” says attorney Andrea Mogensen, representing the ACLU.

But the Stingray's main use is to assist police officers.

“If 85% helps the cops, and helps them apprehend criminals and it benefits them, I’ll take it on the chin for 15%,” says Sarasota resident Myke Greenspan.

Frank Brenner, a retired criminal court judge, agrees. “Considering that we live in an environment now where almost anybody can buy a gun and use it, and in a world of terrorism, it's important to recognize that law enforcement needs tools, which, perhaps, they didn't need years ago.”

Mogensen still argues, however, that the Stingray violates the Fourth Amendment. “This is a Constitutional issue, not really of popular concern. We have a Constitutional right whether we want to exercise an absolute Constitutional right to be free from unlawful search and seizure.”

The ACLU is weighing its options at this time, deciding whether to file an appeal in the case.