The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has let stand a ruling that allows federal agents to attach GPS monitoring devices under cars in private driveways – without obtaining search warrants. The issue arose in the case of a drug dealer the FBI was watching.
An Oregon man claimed that federal drug agents violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches by sneaking onto his driveway before dawn three years ago and placing a GPS tracking device on his Jeep. The agents believed the man was part of a marijuana growing operation.
But the judges ruled that he could not claim reasonable privacy expectations because he hadn’t taken steps to stop people from entering his driveway – like posting signs or installing a gate.
In a dissenting opinion, Judge Alex Kozinski said most people don’t expect anyone to tamper with their car in their driveway. He called the agents’ behavior “creepy and un-American.”
Federal courts across the country are grappling with privacy and law enforcement’s increasing use of GPS technology to track people.
This case likely will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.