Supreme Court Says “No” to GPS Tracking Without Warrant

United States v. Jones

The United States Supreme Court decided an important case last week concerning Fourth Amendment rights and police GPS tracking without warrant using devices placed on suspected criminal’s vehicles. The Obama administration pressed for a ruling which allowed law enforcement the right to use such tactics without a warrant to aid drug and terrorist investigations.

The Supreme Court, however, disagreed. The ability to use these tactics without a warrant may seem like a good idea in well-intentioned investigations against “bad guys.” However, the ever-increasing technology that pervades society today makes a such a power a very fearful potential abuse of authority.

In the constant battle against “Big Brother”, the decision in United States v. Jones is a big win for privacy rights of United States citizens.

Analysis

An excerpt from the SCOTUS Blog analysis:

Opinion recap: Tight limit on police GPS use
by Lyle Denniston

“Amid a disagreement about what a privacy invasion meant in 1791, but with a strong embrace of privacy in the electronic age, the Supreme Court on Monday suggested that police probably should get a warrant before they physically attach an electronic monitor — like a GPS — to a car or truck, while leaving some doubt about how long such a device may be used, and about what kinds of suspected crimes allow its use. In effect, the Court seemed to have launched years of new lawsuits to sort it all out. The choice Monday was between a minimalist approach, one in the middle, and an expansive view of Fourth Amendment privacy. Each had support among the Justices, but counting the votes was a bit tricky.

“The Court flatly rejected the government’s argument that it was simply not a search, in the constitutional sense, to physically — and secretly — attach a small GPS tracker on the underside of the car used by a man, Antoine Jones, who was a principal target of an investigation into a drug-running operation in Washington, D.C., and its suburbs. The device was installed without a warrant (one had been issued, but it ran out before it was put on the Jeep Cherokee and, in any event, it was limited to Washington, and the device was installed in Maryland). And, once installed (and serviced when the batteries ran down), it remained on the Jeep around the clock for 28 days. The 2,000-page log of where Jones had driven the Jeep was used to convict him of a drug-trafficking conspiracy, leading to a life prison sentence and an order to forfeit $1 million in illegal drug proceeds. One place where the device showed Jones had visited was a “stash house” where $850,000 in cash, 97 kilograms of cocaine, and 1 kilogram of crack cocaine turned up.”

 

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