Supreme Court Rules GPS Monitoring Requires Warrant

Good news today. The Supreme Court has ruled in the case of Antoine Jones that GPS monitoring requires a warrant. While there were concurring opinions, the justices were unanimous in the decision, which you can read here. The issue:

Whether the attachment of a GlobalPositioning-System (GPS) tracking device to an individual’s vehicle, and subsequent use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements on public streets, constitutes a search or seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.


The Court ruled:

The Government’s attachment of the GPS device to the vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment

....the Court need not address the Government’s contention that Jones had no “reasonable expectation of privacy,” because Jones’s Fourth Amendment rights do not rise or fall with the Katz formulation. At bottom, the Court must “assur[e] preservation of that degree of privacy against government that existed when the Fourth Amendment was adopted.”

One question not addressed: Whether the electronic surveillance, if achieved without having to physically trespass on Jones’s property, would have been “an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.”

Background on the case here.

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    Wow, if I didn't know better (5.00 / 0) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 01:04:05 PM EST
    I might suspect a few justices are worrying about what the people they serve think about them these days.

    Could also be... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Romberry on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 08:26:40 PM EST
    ...that the Justices were thinking about what it might be like if they were the ones being tracked. Maybe this is a turning point. Doubt that is so, but hope that it is.

    Yes, very good news (none / 0) (#2)
    by Zorba on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 01:20:53 PM EST
    I'll certainly take more decisions like this!

    According to Adam B at DK, there's (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 01:52:32 PM EST
    kind of a catch here.  Has to do with right of privacy--is it merely a property right?  

    Supreme Court shifts concept of what right to privacy entails

    This is a very good decision by the (none / 0) (#4)
    by KeysDan on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 02:11:04 PM EST
    Supreme Court.  Important, especially, in that affirmation of the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit was unanimous.   Of interest, too, is the reasoning of the Court and of the Concurrence.  The Court's analysis is hooked to "physical trespass."  Sotomayor, in her separate agreement with the Court, sharpens this reasoning for the future by acknowledging that fourth amendment protection goes beyond property, but clarifies that when the government physically invades personal property to gather information, a search occurs and that was sufficient to decide the case.  

    Alito (with Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan) holds that the Court's reasoning is unwise, more in tune with deciding the case on the basis of eighteenth century tort law--by attaching a GPS to the Jeep it was akin to " conduct that might have provided grounds in 1791 for suit for trespass to chattels."  And, for this reason the GPS constituted a search.

    The Concurrence faults the Court's reasoning for disregarding the major factor (use of GPS for long-term tracking) and, instead, attaching great significance to a minor factor (attaching an object to the undercarriage of the car).

     In my view, the Concurrence has the better reasoning for future technological impacts on law.  And, of course, the worst reasoning was by the government, what with their reasonable suspicion and probably cause ideas.

    Yes, but... (none / 0) (#8)
    by DeportRumsfeld on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 09:13:15 AM EST
    These cases are all tied to the idea of "reasonable expectation of privacy". So in this case, it seems pretty clear that the owner of the jeep did not reasonably expect the government to trespass and attach a surveillance device...

    Today (none / 0) (#6)
    by chrisvee on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 06:25:27 PM EST
    is a good day!