SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a murder suspect’s cell phone records can be used by prosecutors as evidence in a man’s trial. Following a unanimous decision regarding privacy protections for digital information, the court determined that a police affidavit for a search warrant supplied the required legal foundation for authorities to obtain cell phone records which revealed the identity and position of the defendant Jaycob Michael Price.
Price is awaiting trial on first-degree felony murder and other charges in the 2013 shooting death of Julio Apodaca in an apartment parking lot. Thirty minutes after leaving his sister-in-law’s apartment, Apodaca was found shot in the head in his vehicle.
Police obtained a warrant from a judge for records about a number that was dialed on the victim’s cell phone after Apodaca left the apartment. The number had not been listed as a contact on the phone.
The defense tried to prevent phone records from being used as evidence by the prosecution in a pretrial motion. The defense argued that the fact that Price’s number was called on the victim’s phone failed to provide probable cause that the records contained evidence of a crime.
The trial court judge suppressed the cell phone location tracing records in addition to records listing calls and text messages. The judge allowed evidentiary use of cellular service subscriber records that showed Price’s identity.
The police affidavit was determined by the Supreme Court to establish probable cause for obtaining all cell phone records and the justices overturned the district court’s suppression of cell phone tracking information and call log records. The ruling on the phone subscriber records were supported and the justices ordered the case back to the Second Judicial District Court for further proceedings.
It was noted by the justices that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2018 required a warrant for cell site location information as a result of constitutionally protected privacy interests for the digital information that showed a person’s location. They also determined there was probable cause for the phone subscriber records and listings of texts and calls made by the victim’s phone.