Tuesday, January 24, 2012


This blog recently noted that the U.S. Supreme Court would be making an important privacy rights decision on law enforcement's tracking of individual American's movements thru GPS; defining American privacy rights into the digital age. 
The decision was handed down yesterday morning - the unanimous ruling of the Supreme Court will help each of us maintain privacy and freedom of action in this wondrous, yet humbling digital age of almost unlimited camera surveillance, GPS spying, and Cell phone tracking by requiring that all law enforcement officers including those in Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg & Pinellas first obtain a search warrant before placing a GPS device on a vehicle or on a person (say, for example inside your coat, purse or backpack). 

The result of this ruling heartens your Clearwater Defense Lawyer, by keeping American's fourth amendment rights viable in an ever more fretful digital future. This case should also give grounds for the appeal of convictions in Pinellas criminal law cases described in an earlier Clearwater Criminal Attorney Blog where the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office in a clear abuse of proper law enforcement procedure made secret videos of shoppers at a plant store taking down personal information only because people shopped there, though search warrants were later obtained the information was factually incorrect rendering those warrants facially invalid.

The oral arguments for the new Supreme Court case can be found here. The Brief for the U.S., NYT analysis...
 Without obtaining a proper search warrant the Government installed a Global-Positioning-System (GPS) tracking device on a vehicle.  Government law enforcement agents then tracked the vehicle’s movements for 28 days subsequently securing an indictment of Jones and others on drug trafficking conspiracy charges. 
The lower court reversed, concluding that admission of the evidence obtained by warrantless use of the GPS device violated the Fourth Amendment
The Supreme Court Held: The Government’s attachment of the GPS device to the vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. Pp. 3–12. 
(a) The Fourth Amendment protects the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Here, the Government’s physical intrusion on an “effect” for the purpose of obtaining information constitutes a “search.” This type of encroachment on an area enumerated in the Amendment would have been considered a search within the meaning of the Amendment at the time it was adopted. Pp. 3–4. 
(b) This conclusion is consistent with this Court’s Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, which until the latter half of the 20th century was tied to common-law trespass. Later cases, which have deviated from that exclusively property-based approach, have applied the analysis of Justice Harlan’s concurrence in Katz v. United States, 389 U. S. 347, which said that the Fourth Amendment protects a person’s “reasonable expectation of privacy,” id., at 360. Here, the Court need not address the Government’s contention that Jones had no “reasonable expectation of privacy,” because Jones’s Fourth Amendment rights do not rise or fall with the Katz formulation. At bottom, the Court must “assur[e] preservation of that degree of privacy against government that existed when the Fourth Amendment was adopted.” Kyllo v. United States, 533 U. S. 27, 34. Katz did not repudiate the understanding that the Fourth Amendment embodies a particular concern for government trespass upon the areas it enumerates. The Katz reasonable-expectation-of-privacy test has been added to, but not substituted for, the common-law trespassory test. See ... post-Katz cases rejecting Fourth Amendment challenges to “beepers,” electronic tracking devices representing another form of electronic monitoring—do not foreclose the conclusion that a search occurred here. New York v. Class, 475 U. S. 106... 
(c) The Government’s alternative argument—that if the attachment and use of the device was a search, it was a reasonable one—is forfeited because it was not raised below. 

All in all a good day's work for those folks on the Supreme Court - if you believe the police improperly obtained a valid search warrant in your case contact a Clearwater Crime Lawyer. 

A map of the Known World soon after the discovery of America - We'll keep searching for America until we find her ...


Pietro Coppo map (1520)