NPR : News

Filed Under:

Supreme Court Rules Police Need Warrant For GPS Tracking

The Supreme Court has just ruled that police need a warrant if they want to place a tracking device on a suspect's vehicle. The court's decision was unanimous.

NPR's Nina Totenberg says that this debate has been a contentious issue in the digital age. Here's how she explained it to newscaster Paul Brown:

At issue here is the case of Antoine Jones, a Washington, D.C. night club owner. Police put a GPS tracking device on his car for 30 days. That helped authorities find a stash of money and drugs.

The Supreme Court decided today that placing a GPS device on a vehicle constitutes a search, so they need a warrant. The AP reports that Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the court's main opinion:

"'By attaching the device to the Jeep' that Jones was using, 'officers encroached on a protected area,' Scalia wrote.

"All nine justices agreed that the placement of the GPS on the Jeep violated the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure. ...

"Justice Samuel Alito also wrote a concurring opinion in which he said the court should have gone further and dealt with GPS tracking of wireless devices, like mobile phones. He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.

Wired's Threat Level blog says the last time the court considered a blockbuster Fourth Amendment case like this one was a decade ago.

"... The justices ruled that the authorities must obtain search warrants to employ thermal-imaging devices to detect indoor marijuana-growing operations, saying the imaging devices carry the potential to 'shrink the realm of guaranteed privacy,'" Wired reports.

Jones' life sentence had been overturned by an appeals court. The Supreme Court upheld that decision.

Update at 2:24 p.m. ET. A 'Victory For Privacy':

The ACLU called today's Supreme Court decision "a victory for privacy."

"While this case turned on the fact that the government physically placed a GPS device on the defendant's car, the implications are much broader. A majority of the Court acknowledged that advancing technology, like cell phone tracking, gives the government unprecedented ability to collect, store, and analyze an enormous amount of information about our private lives," ACLU Legal Director Steven R. Shapiro said in a statement. "Today's decision suggests that the Court is prepared to address that problem. Congress needs to address the problem as well."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Game Of Thrones' Evolves On Women In Explosive Sixth Season

The sixth season of HBO's Game of Thrones showed a real evolution in the way the show portrays women and in the season finale, several female characters ascended to power. NPR's Kelly McEvers talks to Glen Weldon from NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour and Greta Johnsen, host of the Nerdette podcast, about the show.
NPR

In Quest For Happier Chickens, Perdue Shifts How Birds Live And Die

Perdue Farms, the fourth-largest poultry company in the country, says it will change its slaughter methods and also some of its poultry houses. Animal welfare groups are cheering.
NPR

Hawaii Law Places Gun Owners Into National Database

NPR's Kelly McEvers speaks with Hawaii State Sen. Will Espero about gun control legislation passed in the state last week. The legislation makes Hawaii the first state to enter gun owners into an FBI database that notifies police if a resident is arrested elsewhere in the country.
WAMU 88.5

Episode 5: Why 1986 Still Matters

In 1986, a federal official issued a warning: If Metro continued to expand rapidly, the system faced a future of stark choices over maintaining existing infrastructure. Metro chose expansion. We talk to a historian about that decision. We also hear from a former Metro general manager about the following years, and from an Arlington planner about measuring how riders are responding to SafeTrack.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.