U.S. Supreme Court: Warrants Needed for GPS Tracking

Supreme Court of the United States

Supreme Court of the United States (brittanica.com)

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), in a historic, landmark decision ruled unanimously today that a search warrant is required before police can use GPS devices to track those under criminal investigation.

All nine justices agreed that the GPS monitoring on the Antoine Jones’ SUV violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The decision comes as significant defeat to the Obama administration and law enforcement agencies nationwide.

Back when we initially touched upon United States v. Antoine Jones in November, we were astounded at the brash argument being made by the government.

And Chief Justice John Roberts seemed particularly stunned by the government’s assertion that law enforcement could attach a GPS device to anyone’s car, without a warrant, including on the cars belonging to the justices themselves.

During oral arguments after the government had answered one of his questions, the Chief Justice asked “so your answer is yes, you could tomorrow decide that you put a GPS device on every one of our cars, follow us for a month; no problem under the Constitution?”

As you’ll recall, the case involved a conviction, and then the tossing out on appeal, on drug conspiracy charges against Antoine Jones of Maryland.

In his case, government agents put a self-contained GPS device that allowed authorities to track where Jones drove. That tracking allowed the government to conduct a secret investigation of Jones’ activities and was used to compile evidence used to initially convict Jones.

That conviction was overturned since the same FBI agents that conducted the investigation and installed the GPS unit on Jones’ car didn’t have a valid search warrant.

What’s really amazing to us is that the FBI did in fact obtain a search warrant. Yet they waited until it had expired before equipping Jones’ Jeep with the GPS tracking unit. Had they performed in an appropriate and prescribed manner, this case would have turned out much differently, even with the same ruling.


About Cecil Helton

Cecil Helton Cecil Helton is a U.S.-based writer and editor with passions for cars, motorcycles, boats, technology and social media. Much of his professional life since 1996 has been web-centric, and he’s written and developed content on a variety of subjects. His work in the houseboat industry received wide acclaim, such as winning the 1999 Cisco Systems Growing with Technology award and being named one of five finalists in the manufacturing sector of the 2000 Computerworld-Smithsonian Awards. As an Air Force brat, he spent much of his childhood in a two-year cycle of moving to a new place, making new friends, establishing a life, and then moving again. Destinations included: Kentucky, Illinois, Texas, the Greek isle of Crete, California and Ohio. Today you’ll find Cecil coping with his 15 year old son’s decision to pursue a motorcycle license at the same time he gets his driver’s license, being active across the web on multiple social media sites, and of course, writing articles and creating content on automotive and car insurance related topics right here at CarInsurance.org.


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