Federal Appeals Court Rules Use of GPS Tracking Violates Fourth Amendment

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In a close 5-4 ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided not to do a full review of the reversal of a life sentence in the case of a man who was originally convicted of running a drug ring from a DC nightclub. A panel of three judges reversed the original sentence in the case due to a question of whether police use of GPS tracking violated defendant Antoine Jones' rights while evidence against him was gathered.

Jones' Washington DC criminal defense lawyers argued that when law enforcement officials installed GPS technology on the defendant's vehicle, his "reasonable expectation of privacy" per the Fourth Amendment was not taken into account. In an opinion, US Circuit Judge Douglas Ginsburg wrote that data collected via the GPS tracker on Jones' car was "essential to the government's case," and that a "reasonable person does not expect anyone to monitor and retain a record of every time he drives his car, including his origin, route, destination and each place he stops and how long he stays there." The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation both assisted in Jones' appeal of the original sentence.

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