Last Updated: 07.03.2020

Everybody uses a GPS, whether it’s in your car giving you the wrong directions or on your smart phone to find the closest happy hour, the GPS has become a main stay in our everyday life. This Maryland Lawyer wants to educate you on the use of this product by law enforcement officers in tracking an unsuspecting person and the implications of US v. Jones, a recent US Supreme Court case involving GPS tracking and the 4th amendment.

US v. Jones: GPS background

For the past decade or so police officers have used GPS tracking devices on peoples’ cars to track criminal activity such as the trafficking of narcotics. These tracking devices are applied thousands of times each year and are just unsuspectingly slapped on to the bottom of your car. The GPS could be applied to anyone, tracking their day to day activities whether it’s going to work, church, or the club, having all of this information stored for future use. UNTIL NOW.

US v. Jones: Facts

In  US v. Jones, a recent decision by the Supreme Court (SCOTUS), the Justices ruled that the placement of a GPS device on someone’s car without a warrant can be considered a violation of the 4th amendment and “the right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures.”  In this particular case Antoine Jones’ car was tracked by the police in Washington DC using a GPS. Based on the information gathered by the police over the next month was used as evidence against Jones. The District Court ruled the information obtained while the car was parked in the garage by Jones’ house was inadmissible because there was an expectation of privacy. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that all of the evidence gathered using the GPS was inadmissible because the GPS would be considered a search and overturned Jones’ life sentence.

US v. Jones: Prior decisions

In the past the some Jurisdictions ruled the use of GPS tracking was not considered a search and therefore was allowed to be applied without a warrant. The decision in US v. Jones would seem to change this, but the Courts have found a loophole in the decision by SCOTUS. The Courts are applying the “good faith exception” which would allow evidence obtained using a GPS in pending cases.

US v. Jones: what it means for GPS tracking and moving forward

The effects of this case may bring into question information someone gives out to Google every time you search a website or E-mail somebody.  According to Justice Sotomayor it would matter if the individual reasonably would expect this information to be gathered against them.  The bottom line – This decision by SCOTUS essentially makes it so a police officer can no longer slap a GPS onto your car without a search warrant.

GPS on your car?

If you happen to see a GPS device on your vehicle?  It means you are being tracked by law enforcement and are likely about to be charged with a violation of Maryland criminal laws (or a federal indictment).  If it happens, it could be a 4th amendment violation and you should contact this Maryland Lawyer immediately.