United States Supreme Court Rules Warrant Needed For GPS Tracking

Criminal DefenseFelony

January 23, 2012

Today, the United States Supreme Court issued unanimous ruling stating that law enforcement is required to obtain a search warrant prior to using GPS technology to track criminal suspects. The ruling arose out of a criminal case where a GPS device helped authorities link Antoine Jones to a house used to stash money and drugs. Police installed a GPS device on Jones’ vehicle and then tracked his movements for a month. The GPS information was used at Jones’ trial to implicate him in a drug conspiracy. Jones was sentenced to life in prison, but his conviction was overturned on appeal.

Writing the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia opined that the government’s use of the GPS device to monitor the movements of Jones’ vehicle, constituted a search requiring a warrant. According to Scalia, “By attaching the [GPS] device to the Jeep, officers encroached on a protected area.” All nine justices agreed that law enforcement’s use the GPS violated Jones’ Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure, however, Justices Sotomayor and Alito, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan, both authored concurring opinions, distinguishing the reasoning behind their decisions.

The Court’s opinion indicates an expansion of previous Fourth Amendment rights, suggesting that the prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures is aimed at protecting people, not places, affording individuals some measure of privacy even in public places.

The attorneys of DiCaudo, Pitchford & Yoder have extensive experience protecting the constitutional rights of the accused. If you have been charged with a crime in Ohio or have questions regarding your rights, contact an experienced Criminal Attorney from DiCaudo, Pitchford & Yoder today.