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Supreme Court: No Warrantless GPS Tracking

January 24, 2012 by  

Supreme Court: No Warrantless GPS Tracking

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that law enforcement officials must obtain a warrant before tracking suspects with GPS technology.

The case stems from an incident wherein GPS technology helped authorities link Washington, D.C., nightclub owner Antoine Jones to a suburban house used to stash money and drugs after said authorities attached a device to Jones’ Jeep. An appeals court overturned a conviction that would have put Jones in prison for life.

The Justices said in their opinion that the act of attaching a tracking device to a vehicle was a form of search and, thereby, required officials to first obtain a warrant.

“By attaching the device to the Jeep, officers encroached on a protected area,” Associate Justice Antonin Scalia wrote.

The Supreme Court found that Jones’s Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.

Justices Samuel Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan agreed that GPS tracking of wireless devices, like mobile phones, should also be addressed.


Sam Rolley

Staff writer Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After learning about many of the biases present in most modern newsrooms, Rolley became determined to find a position in journalism that would allow him to combat the unsavory image that the news industry has gained. He is dedicated to seeking the truth and exposing the lies disseminated by the mainstream media at the behest of their corporate masters, special interest groups and information gatekeepers.

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  • Sandra

    At last, the Supreme Court took the side of “We the people,” instead of the king’s “do as I say.” Amazing!!

  • Robert

    How about onstar. Would that fall under the same law. Didn’t they have a commercial that happend.

  • 45caliber

    I agree that the police should get warrants. It cuts down on the police power in police states. If they have a reason to track someone, then they should be able to get a warrant. The real question here is whether they can use them to track whoever they wish when they wish without any censure.

  • CP

    Robert, although ONSTAR and other tracking means are not directly mentioned in the rulings, they are discussed pretty heavily in the separate opinions. It is pretty much a general opinion that warrants will be needed for tracking via ONSTAR or cellphone or speedpass. Again, that is not an official ruling, but for prosecutors who are in the know, it is definitely a big headsup.

    • Flashy

      ONSTAR, cell phones etc are private monitors. The opinion touched on these, decided not to adress it in this opinion, and recognized it will be a later decision.

      Which will be interesting. Is a corporation required, upon request or warrant, to turn over its records and not send notice to the specific individual. Or is a general notice in fine print at purchase adequate? Or can the corporation deny law enforcdement those general or case by case? And if those records are protected, can the corporation use them in any manner other than what a resonable person would expect? And what would be reasonable expectations/

      Now you realize why the court didn’t decide the extent of the protections…and the court battles yet to come. Don’t expect prosecutors to exzcercise judgment and restraint…most are concerned not with justice, but with their Won/Loss records. They LOVE the manadaotry sentiecning laws. Force an innocent to plead to a lesser crime to avoid the possibility of life or whatever in the larger indictment.

      • eddie47d

        You hit the nail on the head about the mandatory sentencing laws.It’s about wins and losses not proven guilt or innocence. Charges are trumped up and then they expect you to plead guilty to one of the many charges they use against you. To avoid a longer sentence you plead guilty to a lesser charge even if you are not guilty of that charge. That way prosecutors put themselves in the win category and claim justice is served.

  • Emoke

    This will be interesting to see worked out. I can see not allowing someone to place a tracking device on you or your vehicle without a warrant but not being allowed to look at the footprints that you leave in cyberspace?

  • kkflash

    Wow! That’s the second time in a week the Justices have voted for freedom over oppression. (In case you missed it, last week they unanimously voted to uphold a private school’s right to fire a teacher whose wrongful termination suit was being supported by the EEOC.)

    • Flashy

      What I’m interested in in those who say the Constitution should only be interpreted as the “Founders” (whoever that is) meant it when written…

      I have read that document and cannot recall GPS systems, cars, cell phones, computers, the intrnet etc are mentioned. DaveH…does Mises have a link showing where these are mentioned in the Constitution?

      • independent thinker

        Horses, buggys, wagons, and walking are not mentioned either and all existed when the constitution was written. The authors of the constitution were learned men and would have exspected advancements to be made in all areas of life. They couldn’t have known just what kind of advancements would be made over a couple of hundred years but would have expected major changes in the way things were done and what kinds of scientific advancements would be made.

        • Flashy

          Exactly IT. Yet…we have the TPers insisting on what they claim is a “plain reading” of the Constitution and applying the past to what issues this modern society faces today.

          what seems to be beyond their grasp of conceptual thinking is that the Constitution was never meant to be stagnant.

          • Bill

            that is why we have a supreme court, to determine how the Constitution is applied. the only thing we have a problem with is that some judges don’t know the meaning of the word NO and want you to believe that their YES is a correct interpretation of what the founding fathers laid down.
            Amendment # 25, by the way, gives the provisions, other than impeachment, a way to address someone who is crazy in the white house. Either provisions could be used,impeachment or the 25′th Amendment.

          • vicki

            Flashy writes:
            “we have the TPers insisting on what they claim is a “plain reading” of the Constitution and applying the past to what issues this modern society faces today.”

            For our amusement and edification tell us what issues this “modern” society faces that was not also present when the Founders created the Constitution. Be prepared to show your work.

      • Bill

        come on Flashy, state school did you go to!
        Amendment # 4 to the Constitution says in part: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated ….etc.”
        No, GPS’s are not mentioned, they don’t have to be. What part of this right don’t you understand? Unreasonable searches are just that unreasonable. Someone who violates your person is violating this amendment, what is so complicated about this. Do you know the meaning of the word NO?

        • Hank

          Question…does unusual search come into play with the TSA at the airport??

          • vicki

            IF you did not contractually agree to being searched when you take an airplane than yes it does. Now the real argument is where does the government get the authority to force airlines to write a contract with you where you agree to be searched without warrant.

      • James

        The Supreme Court justices said that. The 4th Amendment reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreassonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
        The High Court just added ‘cars’ to ‘houses,’ that’s reasonable.

  • ranger hall

    Good for the Supreme Court. WHAT else could they do, Should not have gotten this Far. So much for the lower Courts and the Decisions they make.
    The Police Depts. all Requests for warrants should be presented in person to a Judge, All facts presented to him in Person from the dept requesting the warrant. BUT is this the Case, How many warrants are signed and sitting in the desk, To be filled out when needed by the dept. How many Policemen or their depts have been punished for serving an unjust Warrant, Not many that i know of. Policemen need to get back to doing the JOb they were formed to do. DO THE WORK, GET THE FACTS, DO THE JOB RIGHT. Then maybe these Crooks will stay in Jail.

  • ranger hall

    A Policeman is credited with The arrests he makes, The amount of money he brings in from tickets. Unreasonable Detention, UNreasonable Search and seizure. SIMPLE Dont you think. Anything that belongs to you is covered in this.

  • Gringo Infidel

    A momentary lapse of reason?


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