It’s the issue that just won’t go away, and for good reason. Many Americans are passionate about their privacy, and this case puts that well-protected privacy at risk. In March, the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments from both the ACLU and the Obama administration, and must decide whether or not to allow the act of placing GPS tracking devices onto the vehicles of suspected criminals without a warrant.
This all stems from the Jones case, where the court ruled then that it was unconstitutional to do so – it goes against the Fourth Amendment, after all. The Obama administration jumped in and requested an appeal to overturn the case. This would give them full reign to rely on continuous GPS tracking for suspected criminals, without the need to prove probable cause to a judge.
What The Obama Administration Believes
According to those within the federal government who support this, they want exceptions for law enforcement to be able to conduct certain searches and seizures. The list includes criminals on probation and students, with these searches and seizures conducted in the name of securing US borders or apprehending suspected narcotics dealers.
The Obama administration went before the court and said that GPS tracking of citizens without a warrant should be an option based on probable cause alone, whether the opinion of federal or local law enforcement. No judge should have to decide.
What They Said
Lawyers for Obama said, “Requiring a warrant and probable cause before officers may attach a GPS device to a vehicle, which is inherently mobile and may no longer be at the location observed when the warrant is obtained, would seriously impede the government’s ability to investigate drug trafficking, terrorism, and other crimes. Law enforcement officers could not use GPS devices to gather information to establish probable cause, which is often the most productive use of such devices. Thus,, the balancing of law enforcement interests with the minimally intrusive nature of GPS installation and monitoring makes clear that a showing of reasonable suspicion suffices to permit use of a ‘slap-on’ device like that used in this case.”
The ACLU Speaks Out
The ACLU holds an entirely differing opinion. According to Catherine Crump, ACLU attorney, the warrant “is particularly important when it comes to GPS tracking because the technology is cheap, convenient, difficult to detect, and highly intrusive…given how easy and inexpensive it is to track a suspect using GPS, neither cost nor effort will stop the government in using it in cases where it isn’t reasonable. The courts must impose strict limitations on the use of this technology in order to protect the right of all Americans to go about their daily lives without being tracked by the government.”
Do you side with the government or the ACLU on this issue? We’d love to get your feeback!