The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that because of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, police must obtain a valid warrant before using a GPS device to track a suspect for an extended period of time.

The decision, United States vs. Jones (pdf), throws out the drug-related conviction of nightclub owner Antoine Jones. Although District of Columbia police had obtained a warrant in 2005 to track Jones's Jeep Grand Cherokee, the warrant had a ten-day lifespan. The GPS locator was installed the day after the warrant expired and while the vehicle was outside of the department's jurisdiction, and DC police tracked Jones for nearly a month after installation before arresting him.

Five of the justices concluded that use of the tracker was effectively a private-property search. Four reasoned that the DC police had violated reasonable privacy rights. In either understanding, the point was essentially the same: electronic surveillance faces the same constitutional limits as other police activity.

(Hat tip to DeeVee!)

Photo Credit: AP