GPS Monitoring of Automobile to be Decided by Supreme Court

David Lindsey, Attorney at Law

By David Lindsey Attorney of David Lindsey, Attorney at Law posted in Search and Seizure on Tuesday, November 22, 2011.

Have advances in technology led to potential invasions of privacy by law enforcement? This question will be taken up by the nation’s highest court this term, in the case United States v Jones, where a GPS tracking device placed on a suspect’s car without a warrant.

The court has long maintained that people should have no expectation of privacy while in public; police surveillance is an accepted manner by which law enforcement collects evidence. Does the placement of a tracking device on a vehicle cross the line? The Jones case will address not only whether the placement of the GPS device on the outside of the vehicle without a warrant qualifies as a “search”, but also whether such intensive monitoring is by definition more intrusive than conventional surveillance.

“The Jones case requires the Supreme Court to decide whether modern technology has turned law enforcement into Big Brother, able to monitor and record every move we make outside our homes,” said Susan Freiwald, a law professor at the University of San Francisco.

Courts have not required law enforcement to obtain warrants in order to put a “tail” on a suspect, or to perform a “stakeout”. The court must decide if the use of GPS technology is a simply a way to do this kind of surveillance more cheaply, or if as the lower court unanimously ruled that the government was trying to obtain too much information.

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