Monday, January 23, 2012

Fourth Amendment is Back: Justices Hold 9/0 that GPS Tracking Violates Fourth Amendment

The U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion this morning in United States v. Jones upholding the suppression of evidence obtained by police using GPS tracking technology. The Supreme Court, in a 9/0 decision, held that the placing and monitoring of an individual's movements through GPS tracking is a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

The case stems from the conviction of Antoine Jones, a Washington D.C. nightclub owner who was suspected of drug dealing. Police had obtained a warrant to place a GPS device on Jones's car but they did not remove it when the warrant expired. They reinstalled the device and subsequently tracked Jones's movements for 28 days whereever his car went. Police used the GPS device to track Jones to a stash house, where they found cocaine, weapons and drug paraphernalia. He was convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and sentenced to life in prison. The Supreme Court held that such an electronic search was a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The Court did not consider whether the search was "reasonable" under the Fourth Amendment because the Government did not raise that below. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the Court, stated:
We hold that the government's installation of a GPS device on a target's vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle's movements, constitutes a 'search'"

"The government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information," Scalia said. "By attaching the device to the Jeep, officers encroached on a protected area."

1 comment:

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