US: The Obama administration urged the Supreme Court to allow the government, without a court warrant, to affix GPS devices on suspects’ vehicles to track their moves. The Department of Justice (DOJ) in the US, said, “A person has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements from one place to another.” It demanded to undo a lower court decision that reversed the conviction and life sentence of a cocaine dealer whose vehicle was tracked via GPS for a month without a court warrant.
The petition, if accepted by the justices, arguably would make it the biggest Fourth Amendment case in a decade — one weighing the collision of privacy, technology and the Constitution.
In 2001, the justices said thermal-imaging devices used to detect marijuana-growing operations inside a house amounted to a search requiring a court warrant. The justices are likely to accept the government’s petition to clear conflicting lower-court rulings on when warrants are required for GPS tracking.
The government told the justices that GPS devices have become a common tool in crime fighting. Three other circuit courts of appeal have already said the authorities do not need a warrant for GPS vehicle tracking.
“Prompt resolution of this conflict is critically important to law enforcement efforts throughout the US. The court of appeals’ decision seriously impedes the government’s use of GPS devices at the beginning stages of an investigation when officers are gathering evidence to establish probable cause and provides no guidance on the circumstances under which officers must obtain a warrant before placing a GPS device on a vehicle,” the Obama administration wrote the justices.
The legal flap focuses on a 1983 Supreme Court decision allowing a tracking beacon affixed to a container of chemicals without a court warrant. The beacon followed a motorist to a secluded cabin.