In an important case for privacy rights, United States v. Jones, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide if the police need a search warrant to put a GPS tracking device on a suspect’s vehicle. Lower courts have been sharply divided.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled that the police must get a warrant, while federal appeals courts in Chicago, St. Louis, and San Francisco, have ruled the other way. The government is relying on the Supreme Court’s 1983 ruling in United States v. Knotts, which held that the police did not need a warrant to install an electronic beeper in a container of chemicals being transported on a truck. Civil libertarians counter that monitoring someone with GPS for a month is far more invasive than a single instance of monitoring. The Jones case could be argued as soon as this fall.