Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court in United States vs. Jones, ruled that use of electronic Global Positioning System (GPS) to monitor a suspect is a search under the Fourth Amendment. In the Jones case, law enforcement installed a GPS on the defendant's car without a search warrant. The law enforcement agents then monitored the whereabouts of the defendant for 28 days. During this time they collected enough data to not only obtain an indictment but ultimately a conviction for narcotics trafficking. The defendant was sentenced to life in jail. The appeals court reversed the conviction and the government appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court had to decide whether the police use of a GPS was Fourth Amendment search. In reaching its decision to up hold the appeals court reversal the majority opinion said, “The Government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information. We have no doubt that such a physical intrusion would have been considered a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment when it was adopted.”
It is clear that the police need a warrant to install a GPS devise on a suspect's car. Interestingly, the court did not address the issue of warrant-less GPS monitoring of a cell phone. Since the police are not placing at cell phone on the suspect the state will certainly argue there is no intrusion into property. However, in my opinion this case signals the high court's affirmation that under the Fourth Amendment the state cannot violate a person's “reasonable expectation of privacy,” and that includes ”electronic privacy”. This decision is now the law of the land and is applicable in every court in America. If you are faced with criminal charges and the police used a GPS to collect evidence you may be Not Guilty. For a free and confidential consultation contact the experienced crimial defense attorneys at DeMichele & DeMichele. Help is only a phone call away (856) 546-1350.