The Supreme Court Ruled Law Enforcement Can’t Use GPS Technology To Freely Violate Our Personal Privacy To Fight The Failing War On Drugs
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that police need a warrant before attaching a GPS device to a person’s car.
Associate Justice Antonin Scalia said that the government’s installation of a GPS device, and its use to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a search, meaning that a warrant is required, according to the Associated Press.
“We hold that the government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a ‘search,’” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote.
With the ruling, the court agreed with a lower court and reversed the cocaine-trafficking conviction of a Washington, D.C., nightclub owner. A GPS device secretly installed by police on Antoine Jones’ Jeep helped them link him to a suburban house used to allegedly stash money and drugs. He was sentenced to life in prison before the appeals court overturned the conviction.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote, in the other concurring opinion, that the trespass was not as important as the suspect’s expectation of privacy. Police monitored the Jeep’s movements over the course of four weeks after attaching the GPS device.
Once a GPS device is “installed”, it can be used by law enforcement to follow a person 24 hours a day, for long periods of time. Data can be collected and analyzed far more efficiently than having agents actually follow a person.
All nine justices agreed that the GPS monitoring on the Jeep violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure, a decision the American Civil Liberties Union said was an “important victory for privacy.”
The ruling finally ensures that law enforcement does not have the right to use a GPS device to continuously track a suspect before getting approval from a judge.
The decision rejects the Obama administration’s position that it could place a GPS tracker on anybody it felt was a possible risk. During early arguments, the government went as far as to tell the high court that it was their legal right to put GPS devices on the vehicles of all members of the Supreme Court, without a warrant, if they so desired.
The Federal appeals court in Washington had previously overturned Jones’s drug conspiracy conviction due to the warrant-less GPS tracking. The Supreme Court decision further confirmed the ruling.