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.