Supreme Court: Warrant needed for GPS tracking

By David Edwards
Monday, January 23, 2012 11:19 EDT
google plus icon
The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. Photo: AFP.
  • Print Friendly and PDF
  • Email this page

The United States Supreme Court ruled on Monday for the first time that law enforcement must obtain a warrant before using a global positioning system (GPS) device to track suspects.

The high court said that GPS tracking amounted to a search, and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The ruling comes as a defeat for the Obama administration, which sought have the top U.S. court overturn the ruling of a U.S. appeals court in Washington which threw out the conviction in August of a Washington nightclub owner arrested for drug dealing.

The U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the 2008 conviction of Antoine Jones, saying police violated his constitutional rights by tracking his movements with a satellite navigation system device affixed to his vehicle without a warrant.

The three-judge panel said the use of GPS, or Global Positioning System tracking, was a violation of Jones’ constitutional guarantee in the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure.

Yasir Afifi, a 20-year-old Arab-American student, sued the FBI last year for placing a GPS tracking device on his car and then threatening him with charges when he tried to keep it.

The lawsuit, filed by by Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), accused Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller of violating Afifi’s constitutional rights.

The suit, obtained by Talking Points Memo, explained that Afifi, an American-born student at Mission College in Sara Clara who also works as a salesman, was concerned that the device found on his car might be a pipe bomb.

After posting photos of the device on Reddit.com, agents came to his apartment in a “bizarre mission to retrieve the device” and questioned him, according to the lawsuit.

That case is pending.

Read Monday’s entire Supreme Court ruling (PDF) here.

– With AFP

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
By commenting, you agree to our terms of service
and to abide by our commenting policy.