The US Supreme Court is about to rule whether or not a 220 year-old amendment to the Constitution prevents police from using GPS tracking technology.
According to Reuters, the Supremes have to work out if coppers need a warrant to use a global positioning system device to track a suspect’s movements.
The Obama administration has appealed against a court case which ruled that secretly attaching the tracking device to the suspect’s vehicle to monitor his movements did not violate his constitutional privacy rights.
An appeals court threw out the conviction and the life-in-prison sentence for Antoine Jones, a nightclub owner in Washington, DC, for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Apparently coppers got all the evidence they needed because they attached a GPS tracking device to his car.
However the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment says that coppers are not allowed to carry out unreasonable searches. The appeals court said that police must obtain a warrant to use the GPS device for an extended period of time to covertly follow a suspect. Prolonged electronic monitoring of Jones’ vehicle amounted to an unreasonable search, the court ruled.
The Obama administration wants the Supremes to decide if coppers need a warrant to use GPS tracking technology on public streets.
They claim that needing a warrant could hurt the government’s ability to investigate drug trafficking, terrorism and other crimes.
However, as Antoine Jones’s brief Stephen Leckar pointed out, it would be possible for the government to engage in 24 hour tracking of the movements of any private citizen for extended — indeed an unlimited period of time.
The Supremes are expected to hear arguments in the case and issue a ruling in October, because you can’t hurry love.