Supreme Court rules unanimously in GPS tracking case

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court today unanimously ruled against the government in a case involving GPS tracking of a criminal suspect. In United States vs. Jones, the court said the government violated the Fourth Amendment by affixing a tracking device onto a suspect’s car outside the parameters of a search warrant, and also that tracking by GPS devices constitutes a search. The court rejected the government defense that said tracking a car while on public roads is not a violation of privacy since there is not a reasonable assumption of privacy in public space.

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In an opinion released Monday morning, the justices held specifically that GPS tracking constitutes a search as defined under the Fourth Amendment. “Here, the Government’s physical intrusion on an “effect” for the purpose of obtaining information constitutes a “search," the decision read.

Walter Dellinger, one of the defense attorneys, said US v. Jones “is a signal event in Fourth Amendment history," according to the New York Times. He went on: "almost any use of G.P.S. electronic surveillance of a citizen’s movement will be legally questionable unless a warrant is obtained in advance.”

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The Washington Post reported that the justices did not rule specifically on broader privacy issues with respect to technology. Justice Sonya Sotomayor said about privacy "'resolution of these difficult questions' is unnecessary because she agreed with the majority that the government’s 'physical intrusion on Jones’ Jeep' supplies a narrower avenue to decide the case,"according to the Post.

Though, according to the Times, United States v Jones may signal how the justices might rule if a future, broader case regarding privacy and high tech surveillance comes before the court.

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