Police Can't Track You by GPS, Supreme Court Says
BREAKING: In a unanimous ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that law-enforcement authorities cannot track suspects using GPS devices without a warrant.
The justices ruled 9-0 to uphold a lower court decision that ruled that District of Columbia police and the FBI had violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition on arbitary search and seizure in the case of Antoine Jones, a Washington, D.C. nightclub owner whom police suspected of drug dealing.
In 2005, D.C. police obtained a 10-day warrant to track Jones' wife's Jeep by placing a GPS tracker on the underbody of the vehicle. But the tracker was not placed until the 11th day, after the warrant had expired, and the Jeep spent most of the next month in Maryland, outside the warrant's jurisdiction.
Nonetheless, federal prosecutors were able to demonstrate that the Jeep traveled to known drug-distribution addresses in Maryland within that month. To admit the GPS evidence, they cited long-standing rulings supporting the "motor vehicle exception" to the Fourth Amendment, which argue that cars, trucks and buses traveling on public roads can be searched without warrant.
Jones' first trial resulted in a hung jury, but he was convicted in 2008 and sentenced to life in prison.
In 2010, a federal appeals court struck down the conviction, arguing that the GPS evidence was inadmissible without a valid warrant. Today, (Jan. 23), the Supreme Court agreed.
"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 Supreme Court decision, authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, states. "The Government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information."
That private property, Scalia wrote, was Jones' wife's Jeep, which Scalia argued is a personal "effect" as enumerated by the Fourth Amendment: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated."
This is a breaking story and will be updated further.
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