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Supreme Court Rules Monitoring Suspects with GPS Device Unconstitutional

April 27, 2012 | Posted In Administrative Law, Criminal Law - Monitoring Suspects

A Report from Your New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer

A new U.S. Supreme Court decision does much to address New Jersey criminal defense lawyers’ concerns about the increasing use of technology in surveillance.  The court has ruled that police officers’ installation and use of a GPS device to track a suspect's car constituted a violation of the suspect’s constitutional rights.  However, the court was not unanimous in its rationale for the decision.

New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys Concerned about Expanding Use of Surveillance Technology

The Supreme Court ruling involves a nightclub owner under suspicion for drug crimes. Officers installed a GPS device in the suspect's car and ultimately traced the man to a house that contained a stash of drugs. Although the suspect was arrested and convicted, his conviction was later overturned by an appeals court. 

The Supreme Court ruled that the man's rights to privacy were violated when law enforcement officers installed a GPS device in the suspect’s Jeep without his permission.  Judge Antonin Scalia reasoned that, since law enforcement officers obtained information by physically intruding on the suspect's personal space by installing the device in his car, the installation of the device constituted a search and required a warrant. 

In reaching its decision, the Supreme Court justices differed in their reasoning.  Justice Scalia was more concerned about the possibility of trespass of the vehicle by the installation of the device. However, the other justices raised concerns about the potential for violation of privacy by the monitoring of the suspect’s movements through a GPS device.

The New Jersey criminal defense lawyers at Helmer Paul Conley and Kasselman represent persons charged with sex crimes, drug crimes, DUI, murder, fraud and other crimes across New Jersey.



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