In January 2012, the Supreme Court decided the case United States v. Jones, unanimously affirming a lower court ruling that police acted illegally when they attached a GPS tracking device to a suspect’s car without a valid warrant.
Though the justices agreed that such an action was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which affords protection against unreasonable search and seizure, their decision by no means clarified when the use of technology becomes an illegal invasion of privacy.
The decision included three opinions, each employing three different legal rationales, and courts around the country have been struggling to determine how to apply precedent in a world where privacy and technology conflict and the slow-moving judicial system struggles to keep pace with the rapid technological development.
PRIVACY AND TECHNOLOGY IN PRACTICE
This case raises many questions about the degree of privacy Americans can expect from the advances in technology that has the potential to greatly increase government surveillance and interference in citizens’ private lives. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor cautioned that “the government’s unrestrained power to assemble data that reveals private aspects of identity is susceptible to abuse”, and this is certainly the case, especially when the constitutional boundaries are still in the process of being drawn.
The erosion of the Forth Amendment is evidenced around the country as judges fail to consistently apply the Jones decision; many reaching different and conflicting conclusions in various situations. In March, for example, a similar case, United States v. Fisher, was appealed in the State of Michigan and the courts denied Fisher’s motion to suppress evidence gathered from a warrantless GPS device, deciding that the police decision to employ the use of technology was made in good faith that officers were acting within the law, and therefore such action did not constitute a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Clearly the law surrounding these cases is murky and ill defined, posing a risk to the certainty of legal decisions in these cases. The tide of technological development and its increasing use by law enforcement is unlikely to abate, making such ambiguity particularly relevant.
MICHIGAN CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEYS
If you, or someone you know, is charged with a misdemeanor or felony and you feel your rights were violated by the unconstitutional use of technology or an unreasonable search or seizure, the attorneys atLEWIS & DICKSTEIN P.L.L.C.
can help. We have decades of experience in defending people charged with criminal offenses and seeking the suppression of evidence taken in violation of the United States Constitution. When your freedom is at stake, it is important that you have the best legal representation available. If you have any questions, please contact us at (248) 263-6800
or complete a Request for Assistance Form
and one of our attorneys will promptly contact you.
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LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.