In our last post, we reported that the United States Supreme Court would hear a drug charges case – U.S. v. Jones — about whether or not police should obtain a warrant for GPS surveillance. Arguments were presented yesterday to the nine justices who are currently the decision makers of the highest court in our nation, and it got personal.
During the government’s presentation of their argument that police should not be required to first obtain a warrant, the conversation turned towards placing a tracking device on the vehicles that the Supreme Court justices themselves drive. Chief Justice John Roberts pointedly asked the government representative, “So your answer is yes, you could tomorrow decide that you put a GPS device on every one of our cars, follow us for a month; no problem under the Constitution?”
The main point at issue is the fact that the GPS technology is so advanced that it could possibly become an invasion of citizens’ privacy and constitute an unreasonable search. Justice Stephen Breyer summarized the concern when he said that “the question that I think people are driving at, at least as I understand it and certainly share the concern, is that if you win this case then there is nothing to prevent the police or the government from monitoring 24 hours a day the public movement of every citizen of the United States.”
The Supreme Court does not hear every case submitted to it, nor are the decisions taken lightly. We may not hear their final answer to the question until the winter has passed and spring is upon us. Their decision will tackle not only whether the ultimate use of GPS technology would require a warrant or whether the installation of the device itself would. Another question is whether the legislature would set hard restrictions or whether the limitations on the use of the technology in each case would be left to the judge who would issue the warrant.
Source: npr, “High Court Troubled By Warrantless GPS Tracking,” Nov. 8, 2011