Warrant Required To Place GPS Tracking Device On Car


GPS technology can help you find your way home, but can police use it to track your car without a warrant? That’s the question the U.S. Supreme Court addressed earlier this year in United States v. Jones.

In a rare 9-0 decision, the justices held that the police cannot put a GPS device on a suspect’s car without a warrant. The court decided that the defendant’s drug trafficking conviction must be reversed because some of the evidence used to convict him was obtained through a GPS tracking device that police attached to his car without a warrant.

While the decision was 9-0, the court was split on how it reached that decision:

  • In the majority opinion, Justice Scalia concluded that attaching the GPS device was a trespass and therefore was the type of intrusion that would have been considered a search when the Constitution was adopted. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas and Sotomayor joined in the decision.
  • In a separate concurring decision, Justice Alito said he believed that the long-term GPS monitoring of the defendant’s movements violated his reasonable expectations of privacy. Alito was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan.
  • In another concurring decision, Justice Sotomayor said that, while this case raised difficult questions about privacy and technology, it could be determined on the narrower issue of whether placing the device on the car was a physical intrusion.

Topics:  Fourth Amendment, SCOTUS, Search Warrant, US v. Jones, Warrantless Tracking

Published In: Constitutional Law Updates, Criminal Law Updates, Privacy Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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