Supreme Court and GPS

I really do love the fact that all 9 Supreme Court justices said it was unconstitutional to attach a GPS to a car and track it without a warrant.  When even Clarence Thomas thinks the police are going too far, that’s really something.  I got a kick out of seeing an actual PS colleague complain about this on FB (“do they think the war on drugs is over?!”).  Not too many political scientists to the right of Clarence Thomas.  Anyway, the Post has a nice editorial arguing that the majority opinion does not go far enough:

“[S]ociety’s expectation has been that law enforcement agents and others would not — and indeed, in the main, simply could not — secretly monitor and catalogue every single movement of an individual’s car for a very long period,” Justice Alito wrote. “In this case, for four weeks, law enforcement agents tracked every movement that respondent made in the vehicle he was driving.” This breach of the “expectation of privacy,” Justice Alito suggested, exists whether the police attach a GPS device or use the car’s own technology. In either case, police would be wise to obtain a court order before beginning extended use of GPS to track a suspect, he concluded.

Justice Alito’s approach should be the law of the land, but the court will have to wait for another case before that becomes a possibility.

Not often I get to quote an Alito opinion approvingly.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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