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
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
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
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 .
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
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.