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U.S. Supreme Court to Hear GPS Tracking Cases

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on July 07, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When two federal courts in different circuits give conflicting opinions on issues concerning Fourth Amendment rights and national security, you know that the case is primed and ready for a writ of certiorari before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia came out with rather conflicting opinions regarding GPS surveillance of individuals. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has granted review to these cases and has said that it will hear the appeal of the D.C. case next term, reports Reuters.

The D.C. Circuit ruled that police needed a warrant in order to monitor a suspect using a GPS device. The case involved Antoine Jones, a D.C. area nightclub owner, who was convicted on conspiracy to distribute cocaine. His conviction and life-sentence were thrown out by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said that the prolonged monitoring of Jones' vehicle was an unreasonable search.

In a separate case before the Ninth Circuit, the Court of Appeals ruled that law enforcement officers were within their rights to place a GPS on the vehicle of an individual, as this did not violate the individual's constitutional Fourth Amendment rights. The case also involved drugs, where the law enforcement officers tracked the individual's movements to gather evidence. The government's argument was that the individual did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in his own driveway, as the driveway was open to strangers.

While these two cases did not involve national security, there have also been cases of GPS tracking devices found on vehicles in attempts to isolate national security threats. The GPS cases are sure to be followed by civil rights attorneys and by many who practice not only criminal law but also by those who have interest in national security related issues.

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