Supreme Court Rules on GPS Tracking of Vehicles

March 8, 2012 — 1,383 views  
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As a law enforcement professional, it's extremely important to stay up to speed regarding the latest stipulations governing methods of investigation. The January 2012 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on the use of GPS tracking devices in criminal investigations exemplifies a ruling that must be noted by police and investigators in all law enforcement agencies - as well as those hoping to join the field.

According to The Washington Post, the decision stemmed from a criminal case against Antoine Jones, a suspected high-level drug trafficker in Washington, D.C. Investigators used a GPS device to track Jones' car for almost a month without clearing the action through a search warrant, and the data collected helped lead to his arrest, trial, conviction and sentencing to life imprisonment.

However, Jones' attorney brought the case to the Supreme Court, which led to a historically important ruling. The 5-4 decision by the justices stated that the use of the GPS device constituted a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guards against searches conducted without a warrant.

The Atlantic reports that the Court's decision does not entirely rule out the use of electronic surveillance in situations where no form of trespassing - such as attaching a GPS device to a car without a warrant - takes place.

Those currently employed in law enforcement or planning to work as investigators must, as a result of this ruling, exercise prudence and caution when using GPS technology or other electronic surveillance methods.