The Foxhoven Law Firm

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GPS Tracking of Civilian is a “Search” Requiring Warrant Under Fourth Amendement

(May 2, 2011) — As most Americans know, the U.S. Constitution provides individuals with certain protections against being searched by law enforcement absent probable cause and a warrant. One reason for this protection is to deter misconduct by law enforcement and to provide judicial oversight (because, as you know, law enforcement must obtain warrants from Judges). Although the protection of our civil liberties has been significantly reduced in the last few decades, the U.S. Supreme Court recently decided that law enforcements’ placement of a GPS tracking device on a suspect’s vehicle was a “search” under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and therefore, requires a warrant.

The decision, written by Justice Scalia in United States v. Jones, came about after a Defendant, Antoine Jones, appealed his conviction of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, a convictin which was based in part on evidence derived from law enforcement’s use of a warrantless GPS device to track his movements. Here we go! This will not be the last major court decision about use of GPS tracking evidence. Let’s see if we, as a country, are able to maintain our privacy amidst this technological explosion that has placed a GPS device into all of our pockets (yes, your cell phone). I’m not ready to start shouting “1984!”, but I advice that we watch the progression of these cases closely. If you want to read more, see: