Technology has made our lives easier. With the simple click of a mouse, we can transfer money, send a letter in seconds, purchase items to be delivered to our house, communicate with hundreds of people and so much more. We can do all this from our couch, never having to leave our home, but so can police and prosecutors as we discussed in a prior post about a drug crime case.
The prior post involved the use of GPS devices to track suspects in an investigation. We reported that the Supreme Court would determine whether a suspect's rights were violated when the police and prosecutors placed a tracking device on his car without first obtaining a warrant.
The Supreme Court announced their ruling on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012. The court unanimously determined that the suspect's rights had in fact been violated by the failure to obtain a warrant. According to the court, the GPS device violated the Fourth Amendment's protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. The justices determined that the placement of the device was considered a search.
As a result of the ruling, the man sentenced to a life in prison will have his drug conviction reversed. The man currently remains in custody while prosecutors determine whether or not they will attempt to retry him.
Justice Anton Scalia wrote in the majority opinion that surveillance of a person done without the police ever having to physically trespass on the property because of electronic technology could be "an unconstitutional invasion of privacy." However, the court did not clarify whether every set of circumstances would require a warrant for the use of GPS surveillance.
Source: The Washington Post, "Supreme Court: Warrants needed in GPS tracking," Robert Barnes, Jan. 23, 2012