January 23, 2012
The Supreme Court on Monday put the brakes on the governmentâ€™s use of high-tech monitoring devices to track motorists, ruling unanimously that police and the FBI violated the 4th Amendment by attaching a GPS device to a Jeep owned by a drug suspect.
The justices all agreed that the government needs a search warrant from a judge before it seeks to track a suspect by secretly installing a device on his car.
They were divided, however, as to what level of tracking would require a search warrant. Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking for a five-member majority, said the police erred because they attached the tiny device to the vehicle. He said the 4th Amendment was intended to protect against government searches on private property.
â€œWe hold that the governmentâ€™s installation of a GPS device on a targetâ€™s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicleâ€™s movements, constitutes a â€˜search,â€™â€ Scalia said. â€œThe government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information,â€ he said.