In March 2014, the ACLU of Arizona filed a lawsuit in Arizona Superior Court in Pima County on behalf of journalist Beau Hodai following the City of Tucson’s refusal to provide documents sought through a public records request. The documents requested information about a now common policing technology known as a “Stingray,” devices that emit signals to cell phone towers in order to force phones in the vicinity to connect to them. These powerful devices can reveal unique ID numbers and traffic data, as well as the device’s location. The City’s position in refusing to turn over the records is based on a non-disclosure agreement between the Tucson Police Department and the Harris Corporation, which produces the Stingray devices. The non-disclosure agreement prohibits the City from providing information about the device unless Harris allows it. The denial of records by the City is in violation of state public records law. The trial court ruled against plaintiffs request for records on December 11, 2014. The ACLU of Arizona appealed to the Arizona Court of Appeals, which held oral arguments on December 2, 2015. On January 7, 2016, the Court of Appeals held that Defendants failure to promptly release records related to cases where Stingray was used violated Arizona public records law. The court also found that Defendants had improperly withheld records that did not reveal technical aspects of Stingray but that the TPD may continue to conceal other information. The appeals court remanded to the trial court for the disclosure of some documents and on the question of attorneys’ fees, which was argued in the trial court on May 9, 2016.
Hodai v. City of Tucson
Superior Court of Arizona