GPS Tracking Devices – A Warrant or Not A Warrant – That is NOW the Question

Last month, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, overturned the District Court’s denial of the Defendant’s motion to suppress and held that the use of a GPS device to track the Defendant’s automobile for a month without a warrant was an unreasonable search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment and required a warrant. (See: U.S. v. Maynard, D.C. Cir., 08-3030, Aug. 6, 2010). In that case, as I discussed in my Blog last week (Automated License Plate Readers – The Beginning or the End?), the Government used the illegal GPS and Defendant Jones’ cell-phone records to create a picture of a person who mirrored the Government’s allegations in the indictment. His day-to-day movements were locked –down. And used against him. My favorite part of Circuit Judge Ginsburg’s decision (p.26) [warning, .pdf] discusses the day-to-day use of the GPS against citizens: “It is one thing for a passerby to observe or even to follow someone during a single journey as he goes to the market or returns home from work. It is another thing entirely for that stranger to pick up the scent again the next day and the day after that, week in and week out, dogging his prey until he has identified all the places, people, amusements, and chores that make up that person‘s hitherto private routine.”

The 7th and 9th Circuits have already held that the warrantless use of the GPS trackers is acceptable (United States v. Pineda-Moreno, 591 F.3d 1212 (9th Cir. 2010); United States v. Garcia, 474 F.3d 994 (7th Cir. 2007). A nice circuit-split developing to be resolved by the Supreme Court. I love the smell of a circuit split in the morning, smells like more blog posts!

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