U.S. Supreme Court holds that ankle bracelet monitoring is a form of search and seizure

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On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court in Grady v. North Carolina vacated the judgment of the Supreme Court of North Carolina upholding the use of a GPS monitor on a recidivist offender.  The statute authorizing the program explained that the purpose of the GPS monitor was “for time correlated and continuous tracking of the geographic location” of the offender in order to report his missteps.

The Supreme Court held that the program was designed to obtain information by physically intruding on an individual and, thus, constitutes a Fourth Amendment search.  This decision is consistent with Supreme Court precedent in recent years.  In 2012, the Court held that the installation and monitoring of a GPS tracking device on a suspected criminal’s vehicle was a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.  The following year, the Court held that using a drug-sniffing dog to investigate around a suspect’s front porch was a search because police “had gathered information by physically entering and occupying the curtilage of the house to engage in conduct not explicitly or implicitly permitted by the homeowner.”

The Court refused to decide whether the program was unconstitutional.  Rather, the Court remanded the case to the North Carolina courts to make findings as to whether the state’s monitoring program was reasonable.

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