Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

GPS Tracking Device: Supreme Court to Consider Its Use in Following Suspects

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

GPS Tracking Device: Supreme Court to Consider Its Use in Following Suspects

Article excerpt

GPS tracking device was installed by FBI agents to follow a man who was convicted of a drug conspiracy charge. The Supreme Court will consider: Is a warrant needed for long-term surveillance?

The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to take up a case examining whether law-enforcement officials need a court-authorized warrant before using a GPS tracking device in a vehicle to facilitate long- term, 24-hour surveillance.

At issue is whether the use of GPS tracking over an extended period of time is so intrusive upon an individual's expectation of privacy that it first requires the approval of a neutral judge.

The issue arises in the case of Antoine Jones, who was under investigation in Washington, D.C., for allegedly conspiring to distribute large quantities of cocaine.

During the course of the investigation, police and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents used a video camera; pen register data, showing the phone numbers sent and received on the suspect's cell phone; and a wire intercept, allowing agents to record and monitor his cellphone calls.

In addition, a federal judge authorized the agents to install and monitor a GPS tracking device on the Jeep Grand Cherokee that Mr. Jones drove. Although the judge gave the agents 10 days to install the device while the vehicle was parked within the District of Columbia, the agents took 11 days to install it and they took that action in a public parking lot in Maryland - not Washington, D.C., as the judge required.

The device can track a moving object to within 100 feet. It enabled investigators not only to keep Jones under surveillance around the clock, but also to study his daily movements for patterns.

The device helped investigators link Jones to a suspected stash house in Fort Washington, Md.

Agents eventually raided the stash house and seized 97 kilograms of powder cocaine, almost one kilogram of crack cocaine, $850,000 in cash, and equipment used to process and package narcotics.

Jones was charged with drug trafficking. A jury acquitted him of several charges and was unable to reach a verdict on the remaining drug conspiracy charge. He was retried and convicted on the conspiracy charge. …

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