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The Courts Privacy United States Your Rights Online

Supreme Court To Weigh In On Warrantless GPS Tracking 191

CWmike writes "In a move with far-reaching privacy implications, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear a case involving the government's authority to conduct prolonged GPS tracking of suspects in criminal cases without first obtaining a court warrant. The government has argued that it has the authority to conduct such searches; privacy advocates have argued that such tracking violates Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. The Supreme Court's decision in the case will be pivotal because lesser courts around the U.S. have appeared split on the issue in recent years, with some upholding warrantless GPS tracking and others rejecting it. Last August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit sided with the subject of the Supreme Court hearing, Antoine Jones, a Washington, D.C. man who was convicted in 2008 on charges of possessing and conspiring to distribute more than 50 kilograms of cocaine, and rejected claims by the government that federal agents have the right to conduct around-the-clock warrantless GPS tracking of suspects."
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Supreme Court To Weigh In On Warrantless GPS Tracking

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  • Ten dollars says that they support the government in by at least 7 members. mmm I wonder if my bookie is taking bets on this..
    • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia tends to get their rulings supported by the Supreme Court. I suspect that this has to do with the judges on both courts being based in Washington, D.C. so that they end up in the same social circles. This means that a) the Supreme Court Judges are a little more reluctant to overturn their decisions and b) the Circuit Court Judges are more familiar with the way that the Supreme Court Judges think and so are more likely to rule in a similar manner to the
    • The US Government has the right to do absolutely anything they want. I fully support them in doing whatever they want. And I should know! I just graduated first in class from my government re-education camp. First! Hah! In your face!

      I see terrorists everywhere now! Its so obvious. I don't know how I didn't see it before. Now at my weekly meetings I get to report on the suspicious misdeeds of my friends, family, and neighbors. Amerika rules!

  • by guspasho ( 941623 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @07:47PM (#36605774)

    If it were up to this court the government would be able to quarter troops in our homes. It's no question how it will rule when it comes to what protections the Fourth Amendment provides (none at all). That it is hearing this case is bad news by itself.

    • by jeko ( 179919 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @08:36PM (#36606166)

      If it were up to this court the government would be able to quarter troops in our homes.

      You should be HONORED to have one of our brave troops set foot in your home, you dope-smoking Liberal. If it wasn't for our troops, you wouldn't have a home, you Sharia-loving socialist! You should take a trip down to the local VA hospital to get a close look at the blood and limbs that have been lost to save your freedom. My wife and I moved into the garage so the fine young hero in our care could sleep in a decent bed after the rock mattresses he got in Afghanistan.

      Sure, they were good enough to fight for you in Iraq, but now you think our troops should be homeless. You make me sick, you Jon Stewart acolyte.

      [I defy you to work through Poe's Law on this one. :-) ]

    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      If it were up to this court the government would be able to quarter troops in our homes.

      When the Founding Fathers wrote that amendment, clearly they intended to require the owner's permission before a soldier may enter someone's home to draw and quarter another soldier who is living there. If the amendment had prohibited forcible housing of troops, it would have said so explicitly.

    • You could argue that the that the 3rd amendment, rather than the fourth [] is more applicable to unwarranted wiretapping. (This argument proved more entertaining than prescient.)

  • Getting a warrant is too damn hard!

    Yeah, not going to buy that excuse, not with the number of no-knock search warrants issued every day with no probable cause. Its pretty bad the people we want to protect our rights are fighting to remove them. What's next, my Doctor giving me a prescription for dorritos and beer?!

  • Is their reasons behind the outcome.

    I mean, they do have to understand that if they allow the government to do this, it basically cuts out the Judiciary branch in regards to oversight. They could spy on ANYONE at ALL TIMES without a single warrant being filed. It also means that the FBI could start attaching these devices to THEIR cars.

    (Of course there is no reason why the FBI would want to track judges now is there...)

  • if they won't even follow the most basic law we have: the Constitution.

    They expect us to obey every dipshit law that they pass on whatever whim they have on that particular day, but God forbid that they have to get a [gasp] warrant to conduct a search or track somebody.

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      Because, although it might sound cliche... two wrongs don't make a right.
      • by jeko ( 179919 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @09:11PM (#36606398)

        SuperDave80 could have made his argument with a little more rigor, but what's he reaching for is "Not even the King is above the Law."

        The Government cannot expect us to follow the Law if it will not follow the Law itself. This was the whole point of the Magna Carta, one of the founding documents of modern law.

        The 1215 Charter required King John of England to proclaim certain liberties, and accept that his will was not arbitrary, for example by explicitly accepting that no "freeman" (in the sense of non-serf) could be punished except through the law of the land, a right which is still in existence today.

        If the Rule of Law does not apply to all, including and especially the Executive, then you have the walking definition of a corrupt state and an illegitimate government. When the government does not obey the law, you have a duty to break it and oppose the men in power. I'll let the Declaration of Independence speak for itself:

        ...whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends ... it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

        When the government does not follow the Law, then there is no Law to be followed.

        You will, of course, still have moral limits on your behavior.

    • The very idea of the Supreme Court "weighing in" is a bit flawed. The SC is supposed to UPHOLD the Constitution, not sit around and decide which parts they, as a small handful of individuals, agree can be totally streamrolled, ignored, and used as toilet paper. There isn't much to "weigh in" - it's blatantly unconstitutional, and the only way they can ethically "decide" is for the Constitution. In spite of many of us having been convinced otherwise, the "consent-of-the-governed" mandate of the SC doesn't ac

      • I'm going to go ahead and guess that they know a little more about the Constitution than you do, and may be aware of subtleties of its interpretation that cloud the issue.

        Even if you believe it's blatant, the Supreme Court has the final say on Constitutionality, so when the Executive and Legislative branches get it wrong, it's kinda important they "weigh in" on the issue... The Constitution is just a piece of paper with a description of some ideas. It doesn't *do* anything by itself.

        • I'm going to go ahead and guess that they know a little more about the Constitution than you do, and may be aware of subtleties of its interpretation that cloud the issue.

          And yet, the wonderful thing is that BeanThere still has the right to call them on their nonsense. You just made the most literal "Appeal to Authority" argument I've ever heard. I'll go BeanThere one better. Not only do I believe their decisions of late have been grievously, horrifically wrong, I don't think they're the caliber of men fit to walk through the Court's doors and sit in the shadow of Thurgood Marshall, Earl Warren and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

        • The Constitution is written in plain, simple English. Might I suggest you read it sometime - in fact anyone can read it and understand it quite clearly. The SC doesn't have the "final say" insofar as they cannot have the "final say" over and above the Constitution, their JOB is to UPHOLD the Constitution - the Constitution itself IS the "final say". The fact that it's become that way is because we've lost the "consent of the governed" because people like you have been convinced that SCOTUS gets to "interpre

        • SCOTUS judges take the following oath:

          "I, [NAME], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as [TITLE] under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God."

          The keyword there is "under" the Constitution. They aren't supposed to trample over it or go around it or sidestep it or ignore it. They are requi

      • Actually, you hit on a problem that has developed in modern government in the U.S.. There has come to be this attitude that the Supreme Court decides what is Constitutional and it is not the job of Congressmen or the President to worry about whether a law is Constitutional before voting for/signing it. This is why I think here is some merit to the idea that every bill proposed in Congress should contain a statement declaring where in the Constitution Congress gets the authority to enact such a law. It is no
  • Some states want to tax using driving habits based upon GPS. What would this mean for states' or feds' attempts to require GPS in all motor vehicles?

    • Probably nothing. It would affect only warrantless, covert, monitoring by the cops/feds. Overt monitoring that you totally voluntarily agreed to in order to get your driver's license and/or vehicle registration, on the other hand, would be Just Peachy-Keen(tm).
  • Is this even relevant, given that private companies would likely be more than willing to sell your location information to the police or anyone else?

    Are the police barred, for instance, from purchasing your location information from companies that perform automated license plate tracking? What about 5 years from now when every department has an 'eye in the sky' providing the ability to track you visually from the air?

  • If it's not an unreasonable search to attach a tracker to someones car, does that mean ordinary citizens can do it too?

    • by gmhowell ( 26755 )

      If it's not an unreasonable search to attach a tracker to someones car, does that mean ordinary citizens can do it too?

      I can think of nine people in DC you should try it on.

  • Is not whether this tracking is constitutional: it's an obvious violation of the fourth amendment, among other civil rights. The question is whether the court will do its duty, or once again provide a pretense of legitimacy to a power-grab.


  • The first question that needs to be answers is why there might be a case where getting a warrant is a problem when they are willing to expend the resources to attach the tracking device in the first place. These things are expensive - on the order of $1000 plus fees for the cell phone connection. So they can't attach one just on a whim, there has to be some reason. So what reasons would there be where a warrant would be a problem? I would guess that the most logical would be one where someone is clearly

    • by c0lo ( 1497653 )

      These things are expensive - on the order of $1000 plus fees for the cell phone connection.

      Save 2 weeks*police persons to follow the subject and you paid it back. See now why they are so attracted?

      Push hard enough against GPS tracking and we will have optical systems using either LEO satellites (lots of 'em)

      LEO satellite orbits are a limited resource, can't be that many.

      ...or solar-powered [optical tracking] drones.

      Night time?

      My point: for the present (and in the next 5 years), GPS tracking devices are more effective for them and more invasive for the citizens.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      These things are expensive - on the order of $1000

      How much do the various safety and emissions control technologies incorporated into a modern motor vehicle cost? A state could require that all vehicle owners cover the cost of a GPS.

    • These things are expensive - on the order of $1000 plus fees for the cell phone connection.

      ROFL. Expensive? To the FBI? Give me a fucking break.

    • Push hard enough against GPS tracking and we will have optical systems using either LEO satellites (lots of 'em) or solar-powered drones. The LEO satellites would be tough to coordinate and we might not have all the kinks worked out of that right now. The drones are clearly less than five years away and might be nearly as cost effective as GPS tracking is today.

      If the Supreme Court rules that this sort of GPS tracking is unconstitutional, there is no way that any of these options would not, also, be unconstitutional. This is why many of us hope the Supreme Court opposes this sort of tracking.

  • Any chance Alito will break his record of never seeing a police search he didn't like? Nah....

  • by SuperCharlie ( 1068072 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @09:31PM (#36606524)
    How do we even GET to the 4th amendment when in order to even place a device on your car someone has to at minimum infringe on your property rights and often trespass to do so. The argument shouldnt be is this a legal should be who the hell are you to put your device on MY property and often in MY driveway.
  • If the feds don't bother getting a warrant, then they don't get to whine if their "suspect" decides to dispose of the device as he sees fit.

    • Precisely what I came here to say. If I find a tracking device on my car I'm going to attach it to something headed to NY. Preferably a train.

  • by 0111 1110 ( 518466 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @10:18PM (#36606864)

    If the Supremes rule against this does that mean my routine GPS tracking of my estranged ex-GF will become illegal?

    • It'd be far more fun to put these on political figure's cars. We wouldn't have to wait for love children to show up 10 years later, or getting caught in rubbing against someone's foot in a bathroom, we could just analyze their driving habits to see if they're going to a red light district or a mistress' house.

      Or from a personal point of view - In my local township there's a recall effort underway because the township switched ambulance services. Since the new company took over there are documented cases of

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur