Monday, January 23, 2012

Supreme Court says Search Warrants Needed Re GPS Devices

The Supreme Court has ruled search warrants are needed when police use GPS devices to track suspects.


All nine justices agreed that the placement of the GPS on the Jeep violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

Judge Scalia wrote the main opinion of three in the case. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor.

Sotomayor also wrote one of the two concurring opinions that agreed with the outcome in the Jones case for different reasons.

Justice Samuel Alito also wrote a concurring opinion in which he said the court should have gone further and dealt with GPS tracking of wireless devices, like mobile phones. He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.


  1. Wow!!! All 9 justices agreed? This is definitely a good thing and pretty rare in my recollection.

    In either case, a good EMF detector (for about $300) will be able to cure any worries for those who think about such things.

  2. This could be much bigger than search warrants on GPS devices, it could be a big scaleback of warrantless/unreasonable searches in general--of course whether or not this case is a turning point depends on how future courts follow it.

    There is no need for a warrant unless there is a "search" and the law for about 40 years (since the Katz v. United States decision) has been that a search only occurs if the person has a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in the thing searched. That creates a lot of problems, one being that if searches become the norm, as they are in airports, then you no longer have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

    However this opinion says that a search occurs if there is EITHER (1) a reasonable expectation of privacy (the Katz rule) or (2) a trespass on persons, houses, papers or effects (the pre-Katz common-law rule). That means the Fourth Amendment will protect have both the protections pre-Katz and the protections post-Katz, which would be a good thing for liberty.

    Further commentary can be found here:

    The opinion can be read here: