NEW YORK — The warrantless use of a controversial cellphone-tracking device in a criminal investigation is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Tuesday as he tossed out evidence seized during an international drug investigation.

U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III in Manhattan said in a written ruling that using devices known as a “Stingray,” “Hailstorm,” or “TriggerFish” to locate a suspect’s phone is unconstitutional without a warrant.

Pauley rejected the discovery of narcotics, three digital scales, empty zip lock bags and other drug paraphernalia that was seized from a Manhattan apartment during an international drug-trafficking organization probe by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The judge said the search violated the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee that people shall be secure in their homes from unreasonable searches and seizures.

“Absent a search warrant, the government may not turn a citizen’s cell phone into a tracking device,” Pauley wrote.

He noted that the DEA had obtained other search warrants in connection with the investigation and could have obtained one for the cell phone tracking device, as well. And he said the Department of Justice has since changed its internal policies and now requires that government agents obtain a warrant before utilizing such a device.

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