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David Rudoi Esq.
January 29, 2012

On January 22, 2012 a unanimous United States Supreme Court ruled that government authorities cannot attach GPS devices to vehicles without properly attained search warrants. The Justices ruled that it was an illegal search and violation of the Fourth Amendment to the constitution for the government to install GPS devices to vehicles in order to monitor those vehicles movements. The reasoning was that when the government agents actually install the GPS device they are “physically intruding on a constitutionally protected area…, and thus, a search has occurred.

It was the act of physically attaching the device to the underside of a vehicle that 5 of the Justices agreed constituted a search. The other four Justices agreed that a month of GPS surveillance constituted the search in United States v. Jones. This is seemingly a reversal of the 1983 Supreme Court decision of United States v. Knotts in which the court ruled government agents could use beepers to track citizen’s vehicles without a search warrant. The beepers acted as primitive versions of GPS, therefore the factual scenarios are anomalous and the Jones case amounted to an important reversal of Supreme Court precedent regarding the Fourth Amendment protection from illegal searches and seizures.