In January 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled that attaching a GPS tracking device to a subject’s car without a written warrant was the equivalent of an illegal search
, prohibited by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The current administration views things a bit differently, and is appealing a case that could affect the Supreme Court ruling that requires probable cause and a warrant before a GPS tracking device can be used
points out, the administration is playing the national security card, citing the risk of impeding terrorism and drug trafficking investigations if warrants are required prior to the use of tracking devices.
Papers filed by the government cite the “minimally intrusive nature of GPS installation and monitoring,” as well as the need to use GPS tracking to establish probable cause, as the reason why the Supreme Court ruling should be reexamined.
One case in particular is being argued before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. In 2010, police used a GPS tracking device, placed without a warrant, to tie three brothers to a string of drug-store robberies.
Thanks to evidence gathered through the used of GPS tracking, the trio was stopped in possession of a stolen drug store security camera system, as well as drugs linked back to a recent pharmacy robbery. The evidence was more than enough to arrest the brothers, and a conviction seemed all but certain.
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, however, the evidence gathered was dismissed, as it had been obtained through the use of a tracking device placed without a warrant. While no one doubts the guilt of the brothers involved, without evidence they can’t be convicted.
We’re on the fence with this one, as we can see valid reasons for the Supreme Court ruling, as well as valid arguments in favor of law enforcement. At the same time, this isn’t the first time in recent years that the Constitution and Bill of Rights have come under attack.
Slapping a tracking device on our car might not make us nervous, but re-writing the Constitution without thought of the implications scares the hell out of us.