The Supreme Court announced yesterday it would decide whether police need a warrant to use a global positioning system (GPS) device to track a suspect’s movements. The case will mark the first time the Supreme Court has considered how the constitutional ban on unreasonable searches applies to global positioning systems, also known as GPS devices. A ruling, which is expected by next year, will establish limits regarding 4th Amendment privacy rights and GPS tracking technology.
“The Court’s decision in Jones could have a significant impact on everyone’s privacy because most of us are carrying a tracking device everyday: our cell phone,” said the ACLU, which has filed briefs in the case.
The Supreme Court will hear the case of Antoine Jones, whose truck was tracked by police for a month before they got warrants to search for drugs in places he had visited. A lower court overturned his conviction last year, ruling that the extended use of the GPS device without a warrant violated the Fourth Amendment. In overturning the Jones conviction, the federal appeals court basically said that you can reasonably expect not to be tracked at all times.
The Obama administration appealed the ruling in the Jones case and argued that a person traveling on public streets has no reasonable expectation of privacy. Other lower courts have allowed such warrantless GPS tracking as well.
For more information on the details of the Jones case, please go to https://fieldlogix.com/is-it-legal-for-law-enforcement-to-use-gps-tracking-without-a-warrant-justice-dept-says-yes/
The issue is an important one in part because GPS tracking has become so easy. Tracking systems have been found by several unsuspecting targets, such as a California college student. There have been reports that police officers can even attach tracking devices to moving vehicles.
In the 1980s, the Supreme Court said a device could be used to track a car for a single trip, but the question in the latest case is whether 24-7 monitoring for extended periods of time is different.