Friday, August 6, 2010

District of Columbia Court Rules Police Need Warrant To Track Car With GPS

In a very interesting decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the police need to obtain a warrant to use a GPS device to track the movements of individuals.  The case involves the drug convictions of nightclub owners Antoine Jones and Lawrence Maynard who were convicted of dealing drugs.  The police tracked their movements for a month by planting a GPS device on a vehicle parked on private property without a warrant.  The state argued that the defendants did not have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" because their movements happened in public.  The Court of Appeals rejected this argument and held that "society recognizes Jones' expectation of privacy in his movements over the course of a month as reasonable, and the use of the GPS device to monitor those movements defeated that reasonable expectation."  This decision may help set a precedent for future cases since it does not appear that any other federal court has issued a decision on this issue.  State court decisions do vary.  The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has ruled that the warrantless use of such GPS devices does not violate the Fourth Amendment while the New York Court of Appeals has ruled that it does violate the Fourth Amendment.

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