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Supreme Court Rules that Warrants Needed for GPS Tracking (Scalia writes 4th amendment ruling!)
DCist ^ | 1/23/12 | Martin Austermuhl

Posted on 01/23/2012 9:47:35 AM PST by Recovering_Democrat

In a case that stemmed from an investigation by D.C. police and the FBI of a local drug dealer, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that police across the country need a warrant if they want to track suspects using GPS monitors.

In the ruling, which was written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court found that even though the case involved a GPS unit that was attached to a car that was out in the open, it still constituted a "search" under the language of the Fourth Amendment:

It is important to be clear about what occurred in this case: The Government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information. We have no doubt that such a physical intrusion would have been considered a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment when it was adopted. The case grew out of a 2005-2005 investigation into Antoine Jones, a D.C. club owner who was suspected of drug trafficking. As part of the investigation, police were given the green light to place a GPS tracker on Jones' car within 10 days and inside city limits. The GPS tracker was placed outside of the city and the time-limit allowed by the warrant, but Jones was still arrested after he led police to a Maryland stash house in which they found cocaine, crack and $850,000 in cash. Jones was later convicted for conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs.

Jones appealed the conviction, saying that the use of GPS on his car violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. On August 6, 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with him, overturning his conviction. Beyond the issue of the GPS being placed on Jones' car outside of the scope of the warrant, the court found that "prolonged GPS monitoring reveals an intimate picture of the subject's life that he expects no one to have --short perhaps of his spouse."

In today's decision, the Supreme Court sustained the lower court's opinion.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote: "The Government usurped Jones’ property for the purpose of conducting surveillance on him, thereby invading privacy interests long afforded, and undoubtedly entitled to, Fourth Amendment protection."

In his own concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said that while short-term searches may be permissible, the extent of the GPS monitoring Jones was subjected to made it qualify as a search:

[T]he use of longer term GPS monitoring in investigations of most offenses impinges on expectations of privacy. For such offenses, society’s expectation has been that law enforcement agents and others would not—and indeed, in the main, simply could not—secretly monitor and catalogue every single movement of an individual’s car for a very long period. In this case, for four weeks, law enforcement agents tracked every movement that respondent made in the vehicle he was driving. We need not identify with precision the point at which the tracking of this vehicle became a search, for the line was surely crossed before the 4-week mark. It goes without saying that this case would never have come to be had the GPS tracker been placed on Jones' car a day earlier and within city limits.

TOPICS: Breaking News; Constitution/Conservatism; News/Current Events; US: District of Columbia
KEYWORDS: 4thamendment; districtofcolumbia; fourthamendment; freedom; gps; gpstracking; lawsuit; privacy; ruling; scotus; search; searches; survellance; warrantlesssearch; warrants
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To: Recovering_Democrat

I suspect that Scalia is concerned about the rights of citizens against illegal search and seizure, whereas Sotomayor is probably concerned about the rights of illegal immigrant drug dealers.

Never mind, the decision is correct. If the law wants to track drug dealers, they should get a warrant.

21 posted on 01/23/2012 10:28:24 AM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: Recovering_Democrat

Thank God! I was really worried about this one. It could have been 5-4 against, and one or two of “our guys” could have gone against. This gives me some hope that sanity may be restored some day.

22 posted on 01/23/2012 10:36:10 AM PST by monkeyshine
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To: redgolum

Me too. Especially in the unanimity of the court in protecting constitutional rights.

This is another personal blow to obama and I think we will see an ultimate smackdown in the obamacare case when his own justices vote aginst his so called landmark legislation.

23 posted on 01/23/2012 10:42:46 AM PST by SpringtoLiberty (Liberty is on the march!)
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To: Recovering_Democrat

This is the second unanimous vote in as many weeks. I’m blown away.

24 posted on 01/23/2012 10:48:41 AM PST by douginthearmy (Obamagebra: 1 job + 1 hope + 1 change = 0 jobs + 0 hope)
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To: Pan_Yan


25 posted on 01/23/2012 10:48:58 AM PST by Pan_Yans Wife ("Real solidarity means coming together for the common good."-Sarah Palin)
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To: 353FMG
Why the concern for the privacy of local drug dealers when the privacy of law abiding citizens is daily violated? What else do they know about us?

Are you implying that is run by government authorities?

Who is 'they'?

26 posted on 01/23/2012 10:49:53 AM PST by The Electrician ("Government is the only enterprise in the world which expands in size when its failures increase.")
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To: Myrddin
My thoughts also...

Things like "it's my car, it's my data".

The idea that they can have my driving info, or cell info and use it against me..well, it denys the right to take the fifth.

But the bottom line is usually insurance companies.

27 posted on 01/23/2012 10:52:03 AM PST by Sacajaweau
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To: businessprofessor

The difference between car and phone in this instance is the phone does not hold the gps coord unless there was an app placed on the phone. Good luck telling me i have to add a app to let the police keep up with me.

28 posted on 01/23/2012 10:58:26 AM PST by Baseballguy (If we knew what we know now in Oct would we do anything different?)
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To: Recovering_Democrat; P-Marlowe

I have mixed feelings on this one since a warrant had previously been issued for an area and an amount of time.

I don’t think police should randomly be permitted to track people. At the same time, they must have had enough evidence to convince a judge to give them the initial warrant.

As near as I can tell, the judge erred on the side of geography and duration, and I find it odd that the druggie was comfortable after that time and in a different location.

Moreover, we are now 100% CERTAIN that the guy was traffiking drugs. There is no doubt. He is guilty as sin of the charge.

Therefore, the police were reasonable in their suspicions.

29 posted on 01/23/2012 11:00:28 AM PST by xzins (Retired Army Chaplain and Proud of It! Pray Continued Victory for our Troops Still in Afghan!)
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To: Recovering_Democrat

On the other hand, tracking the GPS in his cell phone is a different matter. He is broadcasting his location to the world and the world can track him

30 posted on 01/23/2012 11:04:08 AM PST by bert (K.E. N.P. +12 ..... Crucifixion is coming)
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To: Cicero

"...Sotomayor is probably concerned about the rights of illegal immigrant drug dealers."

I haven't read the opinion, but this apparently was one of her concerns:

"It’s worth pointing out a particular passage in a concurring opinion from Justice Sonia Sotomayor in which she questions the reasonableness of the “third party doctrine” — a legal principle that anything you’ve shared with a third party is no longer private, and thus loses its Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures..."

(Not a criminal context obviously, but I thought her placing such concern over privacy matters with voluntary disclosures was interesting given the amount of private information that people will be compelled to share under Obamacare...)

31 posted on 01/23/2012 11:09:21 AM PST by Qbert ("The best defense against usurpatory government is an assertive citizenry" - William F. Buckley, Jr.)
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Okay. Fair enough. But your scenario involves law enforcement officials committing perjury, which is already against the law.

Setting aside for a moment the things dishonest people can accomplish when they decide to lie under oath, the supreme court's decision in this case is very good news for the people of the United States and for the 4th Amendment. It certainly beats the alternative.

32 posted on 01/23/2012 11:16:49 AM PST by WayneS (Comments now include 25% MORE sarcasm for no additional charge...)
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To: sam_paine
What? Didn't you hear?!

High speed internet service has been deemed a basic human right!

That being the case, it goes without saying that 'smart' utiltiy meters are unconstitutional...

; - )

33 posted on 01/23/2012 11:20:48 AM PST by WayneS (Comments now include 25% MORE sarcasm for no additional charge...)
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To: Myrddin
This was a good ruling, IMHO. As others have noted, the fact that the ones executing the search warrant that _was_ issued violated it from Day 1 according to the article.

You said, "I would like to see this extended to include the GPS data coming from my cell phone. Monitoring the GPS coordinates coming from my cell phone is no different than conducting a wire tap. Use of that data in a legal context should require an explicit warrant before the data is admissible as evidence in a legal proceeding."

Do you mean extending it to the point that not even the cell companies can keep track of the "pings" and can only turn that ability "on" when they are presented a search warrant, or do you mean that the police can only access the data with a warrant? I think the cell companies keep a pretty tight rein on the data they do get from your phone "pinging" towers, at least it sure seems that way with the amount of time it takes to actually OK releasing "last ping" data for some active missing persons cases I've read about in the last few years.

I'm wondering if according to your thinking unless there was a search warrant obtained to get the "last ping" info. if it would then be inadmissible in any subsequent trial of suspected perpetrators and such (sometimes used for placing the victim in the same vicinity as the kidnapper/murderer or establishing a more accurate timeline).

I definitely agree that there absolutely needs to be a search warrant before police should be able to use any type of GPS tracking on anyone suspected of a crime. I'm just wondering what kind of restrictions or allowances should be made in specific circumstances.
34 posted on 01/23/2012 11:24:27 AM PST by LibertyRocks
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To: WayneS

true- 4th Amendment win!

luvs me some Scalia.

35 posted on 01/23/2012 11:24:32 AM PST by WOBBLY BOB (Congress: Looting the future to bribe the present.)
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To: SpringtoLiberty
This is another personal blow to obama and I think we will see an ultimate smackdown in the obamacare case when his own justices vote aginst his so called landmark legislation.

And hopefully too some Republicans as well. Like the ones who support keeping databases on law abiding persons purchases or the ones who want black boxes or {snitch boxes} installed in vehicles. Just because we possess the technology to do something does not mean government needs it as a tool to use on us without Constitutional limitations including probable cause and proper use of a warrant.

36 posted on 01/23/2012 11:25:06 AM PST by cva66snipe (Two Choices left for U.S. One Nation Under GOD or One Nation Under Judgment? Which one say ye?)
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To: Myrddin
Are you engaged in illegal activities?
37 posted on 01/23/2012 11:25:16 AM PST by verity (The Obama Administration is a Criminal Enterprise.)
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To: goldi
Last week they refused to hear a couple of cases against public school students who wrote objectionable comments about their principals on a website. The lower courts upheld the students’ rights and the Supreme Court refused to hear the cases, but my newspaper said the Court issued a statement warning the states not to interfere with students’ First Amendment rights. I was amazed because the students’ actions were pretty outrageous.

Outrageous or not, they're still allowed to express themselves, as long as they weren't using school equipment to do so, it's really no business of the school. If they were engaging in libel, that might be a different story, but that's not what they were accused of, was it?

38 posted on 01/23/2012 11:37:27 AM PST by kevkrom (Note to self: proofread, then post. It's better that way.)
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To: Recovering_Democrat

wait till obamacare, that is where they ware waiting to rule.

Then there is now forcing religious institutions to do abortions, contraceptives etc

39 posted on 01/23/2012 11:37:38 AM PST by manc (Marriage is between one man and one woman.Trolls get a life, I HATE OUR BIASED LIBERAL MEDIA.)
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To: Recovering_Democrat

What a muddle this ruling seems to be - 4 weeks of 24x7 GPS tracking is not okay, but some lesser amount of GPS tracking might be okay? What huh?

40 posted on 01/23/2012 11:40:49 AM PST by mvpel (Michael Pelletier)
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