US Justice Department prosecutors pleaded with a federal appeals court to allow the placement of GPS tracking devices on the vehicles of suspected criminals without first obtaining a search warrant.
This argument goes against the Supreme Court ruling in the Jones case back in January which we have reported on extensively here at RMT, and asks the court to reconsider their decision. The ruling makes the practice of placing a tracking device without obtaining a warrant illegal, as it violates an individual’s Constitutional rights.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing the arguments, and the Obama Administration claims that the Jones ruling was not specific enough. Basically, because it did not make clear the need to obtain a warrant in each and every situation, a loophole was left wide open which actually allows GPS tracking despite the court’s intentions.
The brief submitted to the court argues that “requiring a warrant and probable cause would seriously impede the government’s ability to investigate drug trafficking, terrorism and other crimes,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The brief also argues that the tracking of a person’s movements using a GPS device is only a “limited intrusion” on one’s privacy.
In US v. Jones, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the use of GPS tracking devices on the vehicles of suspected criminals without a valid warrant violated the Fourth Amendment, more specifically unreasonable search and seizure. Those who advocate for privacy hoped that this decision would have set the precedent for cases dealing with warrantless tracking for all kinds of electronic surveillance devices besides GPS devices.
Currently, law enforcement is able to access digital records such as emails and cellphone location data without obtaining a warrant. However, searches within schools and at border crossing locations have been deemed exempt from the warrant requirement.