The Supreme Court today issued an opinion holding that police cannot track a suspect using GPS without first getting a warrant.
Justice Scalia wrote the opinion, for a unanimous court, and concluded: “We hold that the Government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a ‘search.’ It is important to be clear about what occurred in this case: The Government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information.”
This statement about the government occupying private property is going to be used in many future arguments. Justice Sotomayor’s concurrence foresees this future:
With increasing regularity, the Government will be capable of duplicating the monitoring undertaken in this case by enlisting factory- or owner-installed vehicle tracking devices or GPS-enabled smartphones. See United States v. Pineda-Moreno, 617 F. 3d 1120, 1125 (CA9 2010) (Kozinski, C. J., dissenting from denial of rehearing enbanc). In cases of electronic or other novel modes of surveillance that do not depend upon a physical invasion on property, the majority opinion’s trespassory test may provide little guidance.