Supreme Court Will Hear GPS Tracking Case

The United States Supreme Court will decide whether the government must obtain a warrant to install a GPS tracking device on suspects’ vehicles. The case should prove to be momentous as far as the Fourth Amendment and technology are concerned.

The case is called United States v. Jones. In this case the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned the conviction of a suspect whose movements were tracked over the course of several weeks through the use of a GPS device covertly installed on his car.

In its appeal, the government said the case presented the Court with the following question: “Whether the use of a tracking device on respondent’s vehicle to monitor its movements on public streets violated the Fourth Amendment.” But in accepting the appeal, the Supreme Court also instructed the parties to brief and argue “[w]hether the government violated respondent’s Fourth Amendment rights by installing the GPS tracking device on his vehicle without a valid warrant and without his consent.”

The government contends that the court of appeals’ decision is contrary to U.S Supreme Court cases holding “that a person traveling on public thoroughfares has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements from one place to another, even if ‘scientific enhancements’ allow police to observe this public information more efficiently.”

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