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Criminal Search and Seizure — GPS devices

U.S. Supreme Court

Criminal
Search and Seizure

GPS devices

The Government’s attachment of a GPS device to a vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor that vehicle, constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment.

This conclusion is consistent with this Court’s Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, which until the latter half of the 20th century was tied to common-law trespass. Later cases, which have deviated from that exclusively property-based approach, have applied the analysis of Justice Harlan’s concurrence in Katz v. United States, 389 U. S. 347, which said that the Fourth Amendment protects a person’s “reasonable expectation of privacy,” id., at 360. Here, the Court need not address the Government’s contention that Jones had no “reasonable expectation of privacy,” because Jones’ Fourth Amendment rights do not rise or fall with the Katz formulation.

At bottom, the Court must “assur[e] preservation of that degree of privacy against government that existed when the Fourth Amendment was adopted.” Kyllo v. United States, 533 U. S. 27. Katz did not repudiate the understanding that the Fourth Amendment embodies a particular concern for government trespass upon the areas it enumerates. The Katz reasonable-expectation-of-privacy test has been added to, but not substituted for, the common-law trespassory test. See Alderman v. United States, 394 U. S. 165; Soldal v. Cook County, 506 U. S. 56. United States v. Knotts, 460 U. S. 276, and United States v. Karo, 468 U. S. 705 — post-Katz cases rejecting Fourth Amendment challenges to “beepers,” electronic tracking devices representing another form of electronic monitoring — do not foreclose the conclusion that a search occurred here. New York v. Class, 475 U. S. 106, and Oliver v. United States, 466 U. S. 170, also do not support the Government’s position.
615 F. 3d 544, affirmed.

Local effect: The Wisconsin Supreme Court has assumed, without deciding, that attachment of a GPS device is a search. State v. Sveum, 2010 WI 92. The holding overrules Seventh Circuit precedent to the contrary. U.s. v. Cuevas-Perez.

10-1259 U.S. v. Jones.

Scalia, J.; Sotomayor, J., concurring; Alito, J., concurring.

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