A 20-year-old Egyptian-American college student is suing Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller, after the FBI secretly placed a GPS tracking device on his car without a warrant. The student, Yasir Afifi of San Jose, says the FBI had no reason to consider him a suspect of any type of illegal behavior.
It was announced yesterday that a federal judge has agreed to delay Afifi’s lawsuit against the FBI for putting a GPS tracking device on his car without a warrant. Afifi asked for the delay until the Supreme Court decides a related case.
In November in United States v. Jones, at issue is whether police need a warrant to attach a GPS device to a suspect’s vehicle and track his movements. The related case involves a Washington nightclub owner Antoine Jones, convicted of operating a cocaine distribution ring. An appeals court threw out Jones’ life sentence because police tracked his Jeep for a month by GPS without a warrant. (For details on this case, please go here.)
Appeals courts are divided on the issue. The 7th and 9th Circuits have ruled that is OK for police to use GPS tracking devices without a warrant
According to the New York Times, the decision in Jones “will bring Fourth Amendment law into the digital age, addressing how its 18th-century prohibition of ‘unreasonable searches and seizures’ applies to a world in which people’s movements are continuously recorded by devices in their cars, pockets and purses, by toll plazas and by transit systems.”
In Afifi’s case, the GPS tracking device was found by a mechanic during a routine oil change. Not knowing exactly what the black box was or who had put it there, a friend of Afifi’s posted images of the GPS tracking device on the internet. Two days later, 6 FBI agents showed up at Afifi’s house, demanding their property back. The FBI insisted he immediately return the GPS tracking device.