By Ashley D. Adams

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal over the use of a GPS device in a criminal case at the behest of the Obama administration. The question presented is “whether the warrantless use of a tracking device on petitioner’s vehicle to monitor its movements on public streets violated the Fourth Amendment.”

In United States v. Maynard, the D.C. Circuit held that law enforcement must obtain a warrant before “prolonged GPS monitoring” of a suspect. This decision of the D.C. Circuit conflicts with previous precedent which has held that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in one’s movements from one place to another. The Ninth Circuit, in which Arizona sits, has concluded that GPS monitoring of a vehicle’s movements on public roads is not a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.  Some of the most important rights afforded suspects arise from the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. Typically, this means law enforcement authorities need a warrant before they can enter or search a person’s property. The GPS tracking dispute coincides with a burst of other technological tools that expand police monitoring abilities —automated license- plate readers in squad cars, speed cameras mounted on streetlight poles, and even the widely discussed prospect of linking face- recognition computer programs. Many legal scholars have called for a fundamental rethinking of how to apply privacy rights in light of such technology. There is no doubt that law enforcement has the ability to track all of our movements-however, we believe that judicial oversight is needed to ensure one’s privacy rights are not being invaded.

If you have further questions about this issue, please contact Ashley D. Adams, PLC 480.219.1366 or aadams@azwhitecollarcrime.com, www.azwhitecollarcrime.com. Ashley is a criminal defense attorney in Scottsdale and a former federal prosecutor.