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Supreme Court on GPS tracking: Police will now need a warrant

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The heyday of hidden, high-tech tracking came to a screeching halt Monday as the Su­preme Court ruled un­an­im­ously that authorities must obtain a search war­rant be­fore employing GPS tech­no­logy in pursuit of crim­in­al sus­pects.

In the case of United States v. Jones, the court found that the FBI and police violated the 4th Amendment "by attaching a GPS device to a Jeep owned by a drug suspect," explains the L.A. Times.

The GPS device helped au­thor­it­ies link Wash­ing­ton, D.C., nightclub own­er Ant­oine Jones to a sub­urb­an house used to stash money and drugs. He was sen­tenced to life in pris­on be­fore the ap­peals court over­turned the con­vic­tion.

Although justices were in agreement that a search warrant is required, they were divided on what constitutes "tracking." 

Justice Antonin Scalia said that attaching the GPS device to the vehicle amounted to a government search of private property. 

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asserted that any “long-term monitoring” of the vehicle, regardless of whether a device was attached, was a government violation a motorist’s right to privacy.  

All justices agreed that using GPS devices to track motorists on public highways was not reasonable.

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