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View Full Version : Legal Supreme Court: GPS devices equivalent of a search, police must get warrant


mlyonsd
01-23-2012, 09:46 AM
Published January 23, 2012
| Associated Press

WASHINGTON The Supreme Court (http://www.foxnews.com/topics/politics/supreme-court.htm#r_src=ramp) says police must get a search warrant before using GPS technology to track criminal suspects.

The court ruled in the case of Washington, D.C., nightclub owner Antoine Jones. A federal appeals court in Washington overturned his drug conspiracy conviction because police did not have a warrant when they installed a GPS device on his vehicle and then tracked his movements for a month.

The GPS device helped authorities link Jones to a suburban house used to stash money and drugs. He was sentenced to life in prison before the appeals court overturned the conviction. The Supreme Court agreed with the appeals court.

The case is U.S. v. Jones, 10-1259 (http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/10-1259.pdf).

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/01/23/supreme-court-gps-devices-equivalent-search-police-must-get-warrant/

BucEyedPea
01-23-2012, 09:46 AM
Yay!

donkhater
01-23-2012, 09:49 AM
Not that I disagree with the ruling, but wouldn't this be the same thing if police physically tailed the suspect for a month to document his movements? Isn't that kosher?

ClevelandBronco
01-23-2012, 09:50 AM
Should quiet the hysterics regarding the "police state" that we are becoming. At least for a day. Tomorrow I'll be disappointed if the tin foil hat crowd isn't back at their posts.

BucEyedPea
01-23-2012, 09:52 AM
You don't need a tin-foil hat to see what's happening in this country. It's part of the alertness needed to keep this country free instead of being sheep.

Garcia Bronco
01-23-2012, 10:22 AM
Not that I disagree with the ruling, but wouldn't this be the same thing if police physically tailed the suspect for a month to document his movements? Isn't that kosher?

That doesn't violate the 4th Amendment.

Amnorix
01-23-2012, 10:23 AM
While they didn't all agree on every aspect of the reasoning, it was a 9-0 decision.

alnorth
01-23-2012, 10:52 AM
Just read the opinion and skimmed the two concurrences. The court did not put this issue to bed, but based on what they did decide, their opinion looks obvious if the things they didn't touch comes back up.

The government raised two arguments. 1) This was not a search. 2) If it is a search, then its a reasonable search, and therefore not prohibited by the 4th amendment.

For #1, the court basically voted 9-zip that it was a search, though for different reasons. For #2, the court did not provide an answer. The majority said that the government failed to argue that it was a reasonable search on their appeal to the D.C. court, so they have forfeited the right to make that argument at the supreme court level. Presumably, the government could try to make that argument in a different case and appeal it up.

In Sotomayor's concurring opinion, she would have ruled on the government's 2nd argument. Not only would she have rejected the government's 2nd argument and ruled it an unreasonable search, she would have used the opportunity to expand privacy rights.

In Alito's concurring opinion joined by 3 others, he did a couple things. First, he criticized the majority opinion for focusing on the fact that the GPS device was attached, rather than on the monitoring itself. (and he makes a lot of sense, to me) Just attaching the device is irrelevant, what is important is the use of that device. He pointed out that if GM started to include GPS devices in all cars and gave police access to them, that issue is not addressed in the majority's flawed opinion because no one attached the device, it was already built into the car. (The court would probably come around to Alito's view on this if they had to, but Alito wanted to drop the fact that police attached the GPS as an irrelevant detail, and get to the real meat of the issue, which was the surveillance) Alito's opinion also signaled what he would probably do if the court ever has to answer the government's 2nd argument. He drew a distinction between a short-term monitoring, say a few hours, and a long-term monitoring. He apparently would be fine with calling a short-term monitoring a reasonable search, since the police could easily just follow you around in an unmarked car, but he would call a long-term monitoring an unreasonable search since the police would normally have to use a huge team and helicopter support for hundreds of man-hours, and allowing that kind of monitoring easily and cheaply was too much power to permit without a warrant. (Since this case involved a very long-term monitoring, he was fine with the decision)

La literatura
01-23-2012, 11:00 AM
Short term vs. long term just begs to be litigated.

orange
01-23-2012, 11:07 AM
In Alito's concurring opinion joined by 3 others, he did a couple things. First, he criticized the majority opinion for focusing on the fact that the GPS device was attached, rather than on the monitoring itself.

I would have to agree with the majority v. Alito. Attaching the device makes a difference. It is much more intrusive than simply watching. A cop can watch a house, but he can't open the door and look in. As for a GPS installed as original equipment - every house I've ever seen has doors installed.

alnorth
01-23-2012, 11:11 AM
I would have to agree with the majority v. Alito. Attaching the device makes a difference. It is much more intrusive than simply watching. A cop can watch a house, but he can't open the door and look in. As for a GPS installed as original equipment - every house I've ever seen has doors installed.

If the hypothetical police-accessible GPS is original equipment, and either can't be turned off or an average person can't be reasonably expected to know how to turn it off, then the majority opinion is worthless.

Its not the fact that someone attached the device thats important, its the fact that the police is tracking your movement that should be important.

orange
01-23-2012, 11:16 AM
I guarantee you will never see this ad copy from any car company:

"Complete with GPS to enable police tracking!"

What you WILL see is:

"Ford GPS System will not only navigate you to the place you want to go, but will also supply your Ford with a useful options."
- http://www.carid.com/ford-navigation/

vailpass
01-23-2012, 11:19 AM
I'm ok with these GPS searches as long as they are never carried out on me or my family or friends.

Saul Good
01-23-2012, 11:24 AM
If the hypothetical police-accessible GPS is original equipment, and either can't be turned off or an average person can't be reasonably expected to know how to turn it off, then the majority opinion is worthless.

Its not the fact that someone attached the device thats important, its the fact that the police is tracking your movement that should be important.

True, but people know it's there and choose to purchase the vehicle anyway. I think that is a difference worth noting.

If police installed a camera on my front door, I would consider that to be a huge violation of both my privacy and my property rights. Then again, I don't think parking officers should be able to mark on my tires as a way of noting that I have been parked in a certain spot for an extended period of time, either.

dirk digler
01-23-2012, 11:31 AM
I maybe wrong but it seems they left open the tracking of mobile devices with GPS is that correct?

alnorth
01-23-2012, 12:15 PM
I guarantee you will never see this ad copy from any car company:

"Complete with GPS to enable police tracking!"

What you WILL see is:

"Ford GPS System will not only navigate you to the place you want to go, but will also supply your Ford with a useful options."
- http://www.carid.com/ford-navigation/

That pretty much supports my point. They obviously wouldn't advertise it if they gave police access to the GPS, so the random person wouldn't have an inclination to turn it off.

The court should have ignored who attached the GPS as an irrelevant detail and focused on when the police can and cant use it, which is really the only important issue in the case.

orange
01-23-2012, 12:39 PM
The Court lays out its own disagreement with Alito. Basically, they didn't consider the use of a pre-installed GPS because it was unnecessary in this case. This case was decided on the trespass issue alone. It leaves open the question of pre-installed GPS for the future. (see pages 10-12).

This is pretty typical. They always try to rule as narrowly as possible. Frustrating, perhaps, but typical.

alnorth
01-23-2012, 12:46 PM
The Court lays out its own disagreement with Alito. Basically, they didn't consider the use of a pre-installed GPS because it was unnecessary in this case. This case was decided on the trespass issue alone. It leaves open the question of pre-installed GPS for the future. (see pages 10-12).

This is pretty typical. They always try to rule as narrowly as possible. Frustrating, perhaps, but typical.

yeah, I realize that, but I thought in this case they ruled too narrowly to the point where its starting to get silly. I would have thought that a ruling on when and for how long police can use GPS, however it was installed, without a warrant would have been valuable.

Anyway, its not important enough to argue much, because realistically a company is not going to just hand over the keys to their GPS device, the backlash and loss of sales would be huge. It would probably take a law forcing car manufacturers to do it, and that wont happen either.

orange
01-23-2012, 12:47 PM
Glancing at those *beeper* cases they mention, it seems like they might very well rule it legal to track using installed GPS without a warrant.

[edit] I like Sotomayor's expansive view. We probably need at least eight more years of Democratic Presidents to get there, though. Something to ponder in November.

vailpass
01-23-2012, 01:30 PM
Glancing at those *beeper* cases they mention, it seems like they might very well rule it legal to track using installed GPS without a warrant.

[edit] I like Sotomayor's expansive view. We probably need at least eight more years of Democratic Presidents to get there, though. Something to ponder in November.

* *

banyon
01-23-2012, 08:00 PM
I would have to agree with the majority v. Alito. Attaching the device makes a difference. It is much more intrusive than simply watching. A cop can watch a house, but he can't open the door and look in. As for a GPS installed as original equipment - every house I've ever seen has doors installed.

The other thing Sotomayor mentioned in oral argument was the possibility of mini-drones which could follow a vehicle without attaching themselves.

I think we are likely to see those sooner than later.


North Dakota just used a predator to catch two fugitives.

Amnorix
01-24-2012, 07:20 AM
I would have to agree with the majority v. Alito. Attaching the device makes a difference. It is much more intrusive than simply watching. A cop can watch a house, but he can't open the door and look in. As for a GPS installed as original equipment - every house I've ever seen has doors installed.


Either way it's watching, is the point.

BucEyedPea
01-24-2012, 08:55 AM
Next up—Skynet

Saul Good
01-24-2012, 09:25 AM
Either way it's watching, is the point.

A GPS can track people who are not in public.

orange
01-24-2012, 10:45 PM
John W. Whitehead
Attorney and Author

Posted: 01/24/2012 7:02 pm


In a unanimous 9-0 ruling in United States v. Jones, the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that police must get a search warrant before using GPS technology to track criminal suspects. But what does this ruling, hailed as a victory by privacy advocates, really mean for the future of privacy and the Fourth Amendment?

While the Court rightly recognized that the government's physical attachment of a GPS device to Antoine Jones' vehicle for the purpose of tracking Jones' movements constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment, a careful reading of the Court's opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, shows that the battle over our privacy rights is far from over.

Given that the operable word throughout the ruling is "physical," the ruling does not go far enough. The Court should have clearly delineated the boundaries of permissible surveillance within the context of rapidly evolving technologies and reestablishing the vitality of the Fourth Amendment. Instead, the justices relied on an "18th-century guarantee against un-reasonable searches, which we believe must provide at a minimum the degree of protection it afforded when it was adopted."

As Justice Samuel Alito recognizes in his concurring judgment, physical intrusion is now unnecessary to many forms of invasive surveillance. The government's arsenal of surveillance technologies now includes a multitude of devices which enable it to comprehensively monitor an individual's private life without necessarily introducing the type of physical intrusion into his person or property covered by the ruling. Thus, by failing to address the privacy ramifications of these new technologies, the Court has done little to curb the government's ceaseless, suspicionless surveillance of innocent Americans.

In the spirit of the Court's ruling in US v. Jones, the following surveillance technologies, now available to law enforcement, would not require government officials to engage in a physical trespass of one's property in order to engage in a search:

Drones -- pilotless, remote-controlled aircraft that have been used extensively in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan -- are being used increasingly domestically by law enforcement. Law enforcement officials promise to use drones to locate missing children and hunt illegal marijuana plants, but under many states' proposed rules, they could also be used to track citizens and closely monitor individuals based on the mere suspicions of law enforcement officers. The precision with which drones can detect intimate activity is remarkable. For instance, a drone can tell whether a hiker eight miles away is carrying a backpack.

Surveillance cameras are an ever-growing presence in American cities. A member of the surveillance camera industry states that, "pretty soon, security cameras will be like smoke detectors: They'll be everywhere." The cameras, installed on office buildings, banks, stores, and private establishments, open the door to suspicionless monitoring of innocent individuals that chill the exercise of First Amendment rights. For example, the New York Police Department has adopted the practice of videotaping individuals engaged in lawful public demonstrations. The government also uses traffic cameras as a form of visual surveillance to track individuals as they move about a city. In some areas, a network of traffic cameras provides a comprehensive view of the streets. In 2009, Chicago had 1500 cameras set up throughout the city and actively used them to track persons of interest.

Smart dust devices are tiny wireless microelectromechanical sensors (MEMS) that can detect light and movement. These "motes" could eventually be as tiny as a grain of sand, but will still be capable of gathering massive amounts of data, running computations and communicating that information using two-way band radio between motes as far as 1,000 feet away. The goal for researchers is to reduce these chips from their current size of 5 mm to a size of 1 mm per side. In the near future law enforcement officials will be able to use these tiny devices to maintain covert surveillance operations on unsuspecting citizens.

RFIDs, Radio Frequency Identifications, have the ability to contain or transmit information wirelessly using radio waves. These devices can be as small as a grain of rice and can be attached to virtually anything, from a piece of clothing to a vehicle. If manufacturers and other distributors of clothing, personal electronics, and other items begin to tag their products with RFID, any law enforcement officer armed with an RFID reader could covertly search an individual without his or her knowledge.

Cell phones, increasingly, contain tracking chips which enable cellular providers to collect data on and identify the location of the user. The collected geodata is stored on the device, anonymized with a random identification number, and transmitted over an encrypted Wi-Fi network to the cell phone provider. It is reasonable to expect that government will eventually attempt to tap the troves of information maintained by these cellphone providers.

Collection of Wi-Fi Data: Recently, a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology invented for a mere $600 an aerial drone that can spy on even private Wi-Fi networks. The drone the professor created was a mere eighteen inches long. Such a device could be used to detect financial information, personal correspondence, and any other data transmitted over the wireless network. Coupled with the visual component of the aerial drones, these drones will be capable of detecting almost all intimate or personal activity.

Facial-recognition software is another tool in police forces' surveillance arsenal in which police take a photograph of a person's face, then compare the biometrics to other photographs in a database. Such a system can easily be placed onto the back of a smart phone and only weighs 12.5 ounces. Facial-recognition software is currently being used in conjunction with public surveillance cameras at airports and major public events to spot suspected terrorists or criminals. Cities such as Tampa have attempted to use this technology on busy sidewalks and in public places.

Iris scanners have quickly moved from the realm of science fiction into everyday public use by governments and private businesses. Iris recognition is rarely impeded by contact lenses or eyeglasses, and can work with blind individuals as well. The scanners, which have been used by some American police departments, can scan up to 50 people a minute without requiring the individuals to stop and stand in front of the scanners. The introduction of sophisticated iris scanners in a number of public locations, including train stations, shopping centers, medical centers, and banks in Leon, Mexico, is merely a foreshadowing of what is coming to the U.S. The information gathered from the scanners is sent to a central database that can be used to track any individual's movement throughout the city.

...

As this list shows, the current state of technology enables government agents to monitor unsuspecting citizens in virtually any situation. One of the hallmarks of citizenship in a free society is the expectation that one's personal affairs and physical person are inviolable so long as one conforms his or her conduct to the law. Otherwise, we are all suspects in a police state. Any meaningful conception of liberty encompasses freedom from constant and covert government surveillance -- whether or not that intrusion is physical or tangible and whether it occurs in public or private. Thus, unchecked technological surveillance is objectionable simply because government has no legitimate authority to covertly monitor the totality of a citizen's daily activities. The root of the problem is not that government is doing something inherently harmful, but rather that government is doing something it has no lawful basis to be doing.

Unfortunately, by failing to establish a Fourth Amendment framework that includes protection against pervasive electronic spying methods that are physically unintrusive and monitor a person's activities in public, the Court has ensured that the core values within the Fourth Amendment will continue to be fundamentally undermined. New technologies which enable the radical expansion of police surveillance operations require correspondingly robust legal frameworks in order to maintain the scope of freedom from authoritarian oversight envisioned by the Framers.

Obviously, the new era of technology, one that was completely unimaginable to the men who drafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, requires an updated legal code to enshrine the right to privacy. The courts, first of all, must interpret the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure as a check against GPS technology as well as future technologies which threaten privacy. Second, as Justice Alito recognized, "the best solution to privacy concerns may be legislative. A legislative body is well situated to gauge changing public attitudes, to draw detailed lines, and to balance privacy and public safety in a comprehensive way." I would take that one step further and propose that Congress enact a technological Bill of Rights to protect us from the long arm of the surveillance state. This would provide needed guidance to law enforcement agencies, quell litigation, protect civil liberties including cherished First Amendment rights, and ensure the viability of the Fourth Amendment even at the dawn of a new age of surveillance technology.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-w-whitehead/us-v-jones-surveillance-technology_b_1224660.html?ref=politics&ir=Politics

go bowe
01-25-2012, 12:08 AM
pfffffffft, wtf does huffpo know about bee farming, anyway?

orange
01-30-2012, 05:23 PM
Glancing at those *beeper* cases they mention, it seems like they might very well rule it legal to track using installed GPS without a warrant.

EXTENSIVE analysis (cut to the chase: orange is right):

Why Jones is still less of a pro-privacy decision than most thought (http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/01/why-jones-is-still-less-of-a-pro-privacy-decision-than-most-thought/)