U.S. Supreme Court to Decide if Warrant is Needed to Track Suspects With GPS

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a case involving important privacy issues surrounding police placement of GPS tracking devices on suspects’ vehicles without a search warrant. Opponents argue that such use of GPDS tracking devices violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. A lower appeals court had overturned the drug dealing conviction of Antoine Jones based on the warrantlesss use of a GPS device on his vehicle.

The justices expressed concerns that technology use would create a 1984 Orwellian scenario:

If you win this case, there is nothing preventing you from monitoring the movements of every citizen of the United States 24 hours a day,” said Justice Stephen Breyer.

“If you win, you produce something that sounds like ‘1984,’” a reference to the George Orwell novel.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor worried the surveillance could increase as technology improves.

Under the reasoning used by the government, she said, “it would be OK to take a computer chip and put it on somebody’s overcoat and follow them” without a warrant or “track people with smartphones.”

Ther defense attorney argued that allowing the evidence to be used in court would give police “the capacity to engage in a grave abuse of liberties.”

Leckar said the use of the tracking device was “an unreasonable invasion of privacy” and that police must obtain a warrant to avoid a constitutional violation.

“What is the difference between following somebody for 12 hours and monitoring someone using GPS for 12 hours?” asked Justice Samuel Alito.