Appeals Court Says Feds Need To Get A Warrant To Attach GPS Device On A Car
from the this-is-good dept
One of the more annoying things about the current Supreme Court is how it always seems to figure out ways to avoid actually tackling the key questions that people are asking. For example in the Jones v. US case, the court very carefully tiptoed around actually answering the question of whether or not law enforcement putting a GPS on a car required a warrant. Some of the Justices suggested it should, but it wasn’t part of the official ruling. So, it gets left out there in the ether for people to try in other lawsuits. And now an appeals court has ruled on the issue, saying that a warrantless GPS tracking of someone’s car is a 4th Amendment violation. The court goes into a full exploration of the 4th amendment and how it applies here. It’s well worth reading (starting around page 18). Law enforcement’s argument is in for a tough time:
We therefore begin with the following observation: under the physical intrusion theory of the Fourth Amendment, the police actions in this case — i.e., physical entry upon and occupation of an individual‟s house or effects for purposes of ongoing GPS tracking — are highly disconcerting.
It then goes through a thorough look at each of the government’s arguments for why a warrantless GPS search could be deemed “reasonable” and finds each one wanting. The main one is that the government insists that if there’s a “reasonable suspicion,” they should be able to do a warrantless search. The court’s not buying it.
While the interests the police wished to further in this case are certainly important, the same interests arise in every investigation where the police have a potential suspect. We are hard pressed to say, therefore, that the police can — without warrant or probable cause — embark on a lengthy program of remote electronic surveillance that requires almost no law enforcement resources and physically intrudes upon an ordinary citizen‟s private property.
This is in the third circuit and I’d imagine that there will be an appeal to the Supreme Court. Given the Court’s avoiding the question in the Jones case, hopefully it will take it and support the argument that the 4th Amendment does apply to GPS searches and a lack of a warrant is unconstitutional. Of course, what I still don’t understand in all of this is why law enforcement seems so averse to actually going out and getting a warrant. Is it really that difficult?