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U.S. President Barack Obama is fighting to overturn an appeals court ruling that bans police from warrantless GPS tracking.  (Source: Canada Research)

The Obama administration argues that its necessary to nullify citzens' Fourth Amendment protections in order to fight terror and drugs.  (Source: AP Photo)
White House urges Supreme Court to consider nullifying Constitutional protections again warrantless searches

A fight over the fourth amendment is brewing in Washington D.C. The United States Supreme Court, the nation's highest court, will hear arguments over whether police should be given a blank check to track the nation's citizens with Global Position System (GPS) devices, without warrants.

The fight escalated with Washington D.C. cases against nightclub owners Antoine Jones and Lawrence Maynard.  Mr. Jones was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to distribute cocaine.  Physical evidence against him was relatively weak, but the case was greatly aided by a GPS tracking device that was planted on his car a month before his arrest and showed his movements.  

Convicted and sentenced to life in prison, he appealed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  Mr. Maynard, who had been added as a co-defendant and had been convicted, also appealed. The key question was whether the tracking violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, the nation's most important governing document, states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The question here is whether secret 24-7 surveillance constitutes "unreasonable" searches.  

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas had both ruled that the practice was acceptable [1][2][3].  They pointed to the Supreme Court's 1983 ruling in U.S. v. Knotts, 460 U.S. 276 which stated that "beeper" devices planted on cars to track suspects did not violate the Forth Amendment protections.

However, the D.C. Circuit Court went in a different direction ruling that modern 24-7 GPS monitoring was far more invasive than the beeper monitoring of the 1980s.  Thus the court threw out the verdict, saying the suspect's Fourth amendment rights were violated. 

That would have been the final say, had the Obama administration not intervened.  Attorneys for the administration blasted the ruling, saying that allowing the Fourth Amendment protections would harm the war on terror and drug enforcement.  

They argued that the fourth amendment protections should be nullified and law enforcement be written a blank check to sneak onto your property, plant a GPS tracking device on your vehicle, and monitor you 24-7.

On Monday the Supreme Course announced [PDF] that it would review the case.  The new case will be titled "United States v. Antoine Jones, No. 10-1259".  The case will begin in October with attorneys for both sides delivering arguments.





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