Supreme Court GPS RulingPosted: January 23, 2012
Today, the Supreme Court in a unanimous vote, ruled that police must obtain a warrant before attaching a GPS tracker to a suspect’s vehicle. This is one of the few decisions in quite a while that hasn’t reduced rights under the Fourth Amendment. It is also one of the first major cases testing the constitutionality of a digital technology in this way.
What will the ramifications be? It’s easy to speculate one way or the other, but here are a couple of thoughts concerning the ruling. A former police officer friend of mine pointed out that good old helicopters and unmarked cars still work pretty well for the police. Even here in the neighborhood of Silicon Valley, our law enforcement people still use these lower tech methods.
Another individual commented that police can still track suspects via the GPS in smartphones. That’s true, but in that case, a citizen can always turn off their smartphone and retain some control of knowledge of their whereabouts…unlike a GPS unit secreted under their car.
Here’s a third thought…not right on point for this case, but related. What about the use of police dogs to sniff for drugs in students’ private cars while parked at school?
As always, there will be unintended consequences flowing from this ruling. Even with the fine minds that sit at the Supreme Court considering all they can, there always are!