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Supreme Court to decide if GPS tracking is a search

Posted on June 27, 2011 in Criminal Defense

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of an East Coast nightclub owner. The man was accused of trafficking cocaine. Law enforcement agents covertly attached a GPS tracking device to the man's Jeep without first obtaining a search warrant. Law enforcement eventually seized nearly 100 kilograms of cocaine through information learned from the GPS device. A federal appeals court reversed the man's conviction, saying the extended use of the GPS tracking device during the investigation was a "search" deserving some protection under the Fourth Amendment.

A separate case, here on the West Coast, turned the other way on appeal. Police in Oregon entered a man's property and attached a GPS device to the man's vehicle. Law enforcement reportedly tracked the man to a remote property through the GPS unit and discovered a marijuana cultivation site.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled the use of the GPS device was not a search and upheld the marijuana cultivation conviction. The U.S. Supreme Court did not take any action regarding the West Coast case.

Judge Alex Kozinski had written a dissent in the 9th Circuit decision. Judge Kozinski says the 9th Circuit ruling gave "the government the power to track the movements of every one of us, every day of our lives."

The Supreme Court is expected to resolve the issue during the next term, which begins in October.

Source: CNN, "Justices to decide police use of GPS devices on suspects' cars," Bill Mears 27 June 2011

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