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New Supreme Court Case Regarding GPS Devices


On January 23, 2012, the United States Supreme Court came out with the decision relating to the placing of a GPS monitoring device on a person's car. At first glance, it appears that liberty prevailed. However, if you look further, you see that the government did just fine. Interestingly, the case holds only that the installation and monitoring of a GPS device on a person's car is a search for Fourth Amendment purposes. unfortunately, the case does NOT address reach the question whether a warrant is required for either the installation or the monitoring of the GPS. Additionally, it doesn't address what factors or level of suspicion might render such searches reasonable without a warrant.

Moreover, Justice Scalia's majority opinion relies on the fact that a trespass was required to place the monitoring device on the vehicle and it was for that reason that they held that a search was conducted. Thus, the case leaves open the question of whether other means of attaching a GPS device to a suspect would be allowed, so long as there wasn't a trespass.

As a DUI lawyer, the case leaves me wondering whether this opens the door for more Big Brother action. Will my clients now be "legally" monitored so long as the government didn't trespass? What if the government sent a gift to the suspect in the form of a car radio, but it was also a GPS. Could the government do that? I would hope not. Perhaps I'm just too paranoid after being a criminal defense attorney. Or, perhaps I just know what the government will do, after observing it over the years.