Local GPS Tracking Case Heads to Supreme Court

Could change way police use GPS

By John Wist
|  Tuesday, Nov 8, 2011  |  Updated 11:55 AM EDT
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The case against a D.C. nightclub owner heads to the Supreme Court today and it could change the way police departments use GPS surveillance.

The case centers on Antoine Jones, an owner of a District nightclub who was convicted of dealing cocaine.  In 2005, police used a GPS device secretly attached to Jones’ vehicle to track his movements for a month, and used that information to convict him. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The D.C. Court of Appeals reversed the conviction, saying the GPS tracking violated his 4th amendment rights because it was a warrantless search.

The Supreme Court has expressed deep reservations about police use of GPS technology to track criminal suspects without a warrant.

But the justices appeared unsettled Tuesday about how or whether to regulate GPS tracking and other high-tech surveillance techniques.

The court heard arguments in the Obama administration's appeal of a court ruling that threw out a drug conspiracy conviction because FBI agents and local police did not have a valid search warrant when they installed a GPS device on the defendant's car and collected travel information.

The justices were taken aback when the lawyer representing the government said police officers could install GPS devices on the justices' cars and track their movements without a warrant.

The court has previously ruled there is no expectation of privacy on public roads.

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