Can GPS evidence be used in court? Not always!
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.
The Fourth Amendment Protects Against Unreasonable Search and Seizure
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 GPS evidence and other technology in court 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 have the potential to increase government surveillance and interference in citizens’ private lives significantly. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor cautioned that “the government’s unrestrained power to assemble data that reveal private aspects of identity is susceptible to abuse”, and this is undoubtedly the case, especially when the constitutional boundaries are still in the process of being drawn.
A 4th Amendment Violation Can Prevent the Introduction of GPS Evidence in Court
The erosion of the Fourth 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. The court denied Fisher’s motion to suppress evidence gathered from a warrantless GPS device, deciding that the police’s decision to employ the use of technology was made in good faith. The Court also found 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 at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN P.L.L.C. can help. We have decades of experience 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 crucial that you have the best legal representation available.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.