In a unanimous but confusing decision issued by the United States Supreme Court last week – the justices held that a 28 day use of a GPS tracking device paced on a suspects vehicle without the benefit of a search warrant – is unconsitutional.
The confusing part? Scalia did not hold that a warrant was always necessary. Walter Dellinger, who represented the Defendant Antoine Jones at the Supreme Court, said the decision means that any use of GPS technology by law enforcement without a warrant “would be a risky undertaking.”
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote majority opinion stating that it was the attachment of the device that violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
“We hold that the government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a ‘search,’ ” Scalia wrote.
This issue now is the future — the Court limited it’s holding to the fact of the case and refused to write a clear rule that law enforcement could use for guidance under different circumstances.
The justices – raising clear questions of other technologies equally intrusive wrote in separate opinions, of the sweeping changes technology has brought to society that do not involve government intrusions.
“In the course of carrying out mundane tasks,” Sotomayor wrote, Americans disclose the phone numbers they dial, the URLs they visit, “the books, groceries and medications they purchase.”
Alito wrote of toll booths that record a motorist’s travels, cars that come ready to broadcast their locations and 322 million wireless devices in use nationally.
H. Michael’s Take
What is most certainly going to happen at this point is that the States — picking up on the Court’s reasoning will most likely find that the long term use of survelliance devices – of any kind – are suspect – and that the actions of law enforcement in tracking citizens using these kinds of technologies will be presumed unconstitutional.