Unanimous: Warrantless GPS Tracking is Unreasonable Search
Happy Monday, everyone. We're kicking this week off with four more Supreme Court opinions, most notably a decision in the warrantless GPS tracking case, U.S. v. Jones.
Today, the Court ruled that the government executed an unreasonable search when it attached a GPS tracking device to a suspect's car, and tracked the car for 28 days without a warrant.
While the Court was unanimous that warrantless GPS tracking constitutes an unreasonable search, the Nine were split as to why it was an unreasonable search.
Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, wrote that physical trespass upon the vehicle -- attaching the GPS tracker to the undercarriage of the car -- triggered the unreasonable search. Justice Alito, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan, authored a concurring opinion, arguing that warrantless GPS tracking, regardless of physical trespass, should be deemed unreasonable, reports ARS Technica. Alito notes that the government doesn't have to physically trespass upon a vehicle to track its movements; it could remotely activate a stolen vehicle detection system to track the vehicle's movements instead.
Justice Alito makes a good point, which, no doubt will arise in a future case.
The other three Supreme Court opinions issued today are:
- National Meat Association v. Harris. In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Kagan, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit, and ruled that the Federal Meat Inspection Act preempts a California statute that prohibits slaughterhouses from buying, selling, or receiving non-ambulatory swine.
- Reynolds v. U.S. In a 7-2 decision from Justice Breyer, the Court reversed the Third Circuit, and found that the Sex Offender Registration Act does not require pre-Act offenders to register before the Attorney General validly specifies that the Act's registration provisions apply to them.
- Ryburn v. Huff. In a per curiam opinion, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit, finding that officers who entered a suspect's home without a warrant while investigating a threatened school shooting acted reasonably under the rapidly-escalating circumstances. The Court noted that reasonable officers in the petitioners' position could have come to the conclusion that the Fourth Amendment permitted them to enter the residence if there was an objectively reasonable basis for fearing that violence was imminent.
Wrapping up today's Supreme Court news, no additional petitions were granted.
- U.S. v. Jones (Supreme Court)
- Back to the Drawing Board: Reversal in Texas Redistricting Case (FindLaw's Supreme Court blog)
- This Week on First Street: SCOTUS Decides Maples v. Thomas (FindLaw's Supreme Court blog)
- Decided: 3 More 2012 Supreme Court Opinions (FindLaw's Supreme Court blog)
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