Federal Appeals Court Rules That Warrant Is Required for GPS Tracking

October 22, 2013 12:00 am

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PHILADELPHIA – The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the government must obtain a warrant based on probable cause to attach a GPS device to a car and track its movements. The decision in U.S. v. Katzin is the first time an appeals court has addressed this question since the Supreme Court ruled last year that attaching a GPS device to a car is a “search” under the Fourth Amendment. In that case, U.S. v. Jones, the Supreme Court left open whether it was the type of search that requires a warrant and probable cause.

“Today’s decision is a victory for all Americans because it ensures that the police cannot use powerful tracking technology without court supervision and a good reason to believe it will turn up evidence of wrongdoing,” said American Civil Liberties Union Staff Attorney Catherine Crump, who argued before the three-judge panel. “These protections are important because where people go reveals a great deal about them, from who their friends and business associates are to what doctors they go to.”

In the district court, the defendants successfully had the tracking evidence suppressed, and the government appealed. The ACLU, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, EFF, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers filed an amicus brief supporting the defendants.

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