Is a GPS Device Covered Under the Fourth Amendment?

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Can prosecutors attach a Global Positioning System device to a criminal suspect’s car without a warrant in order to track his movements for weeks or even months?

The D.C. Circuit answered this very 21st-century criminal procedure question last August with a resounding “no.” An ideologically diverse panel composed of Judges Douglas Ginsburg, David Tatel, and Thomas Griffith unanimously ruled that this kind of round-the-clock surveillance requires prosecutors first to go to a judge and get a warrant based on probable cause.

The court found that the act of attaching the GPS device to a suspect’s vehicle is a “search” that requires a warrant under the Fourth Amendment because this type of surveillance is so pervasive and invasive that no one would have a reasonable expectation that it would occur.

“It is one thing for a passerby to observe or even to follow someone during a single journey as he goes to the market or returns home from work,” Ginsburg wrote for the unanimous panel in the case of United States v. Maynard. “It is another thing entirely for that stranger to pick up the scent again the next day and the day after that, week in and week out, dogging his prey until he has identified all the places, people, amusements, and chores that make up that person’s hitherto private routine.”

Please see full article below for more information.

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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.

© Jeff Ifrah | Attorney Advertising

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