U.S. Government Argues to Keep Warrantless GPS Tracking Despite Ruling5 Jun 2012
Prosecutors from the U.S. Justice Department argued to the federal appeals court last week that the government should be allowed to place GPS tracking devices on vehicles without having to obtain a search warrant, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The argument aims to preserve the ability to obtain evidence through warrantless GPS tracking, but is in direct contradiction to a Supreme Court ruling handed down in January stating that installation of a GPS tracker device without a warrant is in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Being heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the current argument from the Obama Administration, professes that since the ruling from the Supreme Court didn’t specify the requirement of obtaining a warrant in all situations, an intended loophole was left open by the justices, which includes the loophole to monitor a GPS tracking device.
In its brief submitted to the Ninth Circuit, its argued that “Requiring a warrant and probable cause would seriously impede the government’s ability to investigate drug trafficking, terrorism and other crimes,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Moreover, following somebody’s movement using satellite technology is only a “limited intrusion” on privacy.
The federal government reasons “that a warrant is not needed for a GPS search, as the Court…did not resolve that question,” said a spokesperson from the Justice Department. Nevertheless, in most cases the department has “advised agents and prosecutors going forward to take the most prudent steps and obtain a warrant for new or ongoing investigations”, she further commented.
In the landmark U.S. v. Jones case, the court ruled unanimously that law enforcement violated prohibition stated in the Fourth Amendment on “unreasonable searches and seizures” when they installed a GPS tracker device on a suspect’s car without first having a valid search warrant.
Privacy advocates had hoped that the earlier court’s ruling would set a new standard for search warrants for more electronic surveillance types.
As it stands currently, numerous digital records, like stored computer emails and cellphone location data, can be accessed and obtained by law enforcement without a search warrant. However, some searches, like those in schools and at border crossings, have been considered exempt from the warrant requirement.