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Satellite Monitoring for Sex Offenders

August 24, 2015 | Posted In Criminal Law - Sex Crimes

Sex offenders, no matter what their actual crime or the circumstances surrounding it, typically face a difficult journey of rebuilding their lives once they serve their time. They have to register as offenders on the state registry; they cannot live in certain areas; they have to follow strict probation periods and they may be placed under surveillance or monitoring even after they have been granted parole or released from prison. Additionally, some sex offenders may have difficulty finding work with background checks and monitoring requirements, and they often struggle to rebuild their personal lives as well.

Now, advances in technology have made it possible to utilize GPS (Global Position Satellites) to monitor a sex offender’s whereabouts at every single minute of every day. Instead of checking in with a parole officer from week to week or reporting a permanent home address at every move, sex offenders may now be subject to 24/7 surveillance with no privacy in terms of travel or lifestyle. With a GPS monitor, an offender’s exact location can be pinpointed at any time.

Grady v. North Carolina

A recent United States Supreme Court case has determined that the use of GPS monitoring constitutes a “search” as defined by the Fourth Amendment. In Grady v. North Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a “search” occurs when “the Government obtains information by physically intruding on a constitutionally protected area.”

In 1997, the defendant, Torrey Dale Grady, was convicted of a second degree sexual offense in North Carolina. In 2006, he was charged with taking indecent liberties with a child. After he served his time, a Superior Court judge ruled that he had to wear an ankle bracelet with satellite-based monitoring capabilities, as a recidivist sex offender.

Part of the program would require Grady to wear the monitoring bracelet at all times, making him “trackable” at every given moment, with data about his travel history being made available as well. Grady argued that being equipped with the satellite monitoring system was in violation of the Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. After a round of rejections, Grady’s appeal made it before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Unreasonable Search and Seizure

Drawing from several recent decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court judges ruled that Fourth Amendment protections apply because any act of attaching a GPS monitoring device to a person constitutes a search. For example, the court ruled against the police in a case that involved an officer attaching a GPS monitor to a suspect’s car and entered a house with a drug dog because the GPS monitoring was considered a physical intrusion.

However, the court left open the question of whether GPS monitoring for Grady was reasonable or not. The Fourth Amendment protections only extend to “unreasonable” searches and seizures. The court remanded the case to consider the “nature and purpose of the search and the extent to which the search intrudes upon reasonable privacy expectations.”

At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, we represent anyone who feels his or her rights have been violated by the court. For more information, contact a New Jersey criminal defense attorney at HCK today.

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