• Jan 24th 2012 at 2:00PM
  • 323
Last year, 20-year-old Yasir Afifi found this GPS track... Last year, 20-year-old Yasir Afifi found this GPS tracker on his car while undergoing a routine oil change (imgur via khaledthegypsy, Reddit).
Washington DC police thought they had a good idea when they attached a global-positioning-system (GPS) device on the car of a suspected drug dealer in order to more effectively tail him and find his "safe house" stash.

The police did, in fact, nail DC nightclub owner Antoine Jones. But the Supreme Court this week sided with the Appeals court that over-turned Jones's conviction on the grounds that police need to first obtain a search warrant before attaching such a device.

The decision by the high court was unanimous, a relative rarity for this court that is usually politically divided. But the decision also opens up questions, legal scholars and some of the justices believe, about whether law enforcement will be allowed to track suspects by homing in on their cellphone with or without a warrant.

View Gallery: GPS Tracking Devices


Judge Samuel Alito addressed the cell-phone issue in his opinion asserting that the most basic cellphone can be located by coordinating signals received by different towers. That would cover more than 322 million cellphones, he noted. Advanced smart-phones often contain GPS devices that can be more accurately tapped for a user's location – Apple, for example, allows a user of its new iCloud system to precisely locate a phone that might have been lost or stolen.

"It may be necessary to reconsider" whether simply carrying a cellphone means a citizen "has no reasonable expectation of privacy," at least when it comes to disclosing one's location, added the court's newest member, Sonia Sotomayor.

The decision should also open new questions about whether police can tap into GPS systems installed on cars, such as General Motors' OnStar system. In an episode of Hawaii Five-O on CBS, a show in which GM has had a vehicle integration deal, the Hawaii police literally caught a criminal by honing in on his OnStar. Before that, character Tony Soprano in HBOs The Sopranos, ordered that all the GPS stuff be ripped out of a new GM SUV to avoid having the FBI use it to track his movements. The idea is already very much in the pop culture.



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  • 323 Comments
      Sped Man
      • 3 Years Ago
      Cops are using more and more military items on civilians in the name of fighting crime. What next fully automatic ARs aren't enough for the swap team they need a Javelin or an RPG. Why not equip the police cars with equipment that allows them to see inside of people's homes. New York has it eyes on a device that will scan citizens as they walk by to see if they are carrying a gun. What are the side effects of such a device? When did they burn the US Constitution and installed a dictatorship? I didn't get the memo.
      • 3 Years Ago
      The war on drugs has done only 3 things. 1)make drugs more expensive. 2)help to over populate the prison system. And 3)cost tax payers trillions of dollars. I am smoking a blunt as i am typing this.
        wbischo
        • 3 Years Ago
        You are probably doing so to prove that you can break the law at will without being caught, and you are right. I hope the lack of enjoyment is worth it. Pot is the most overrated drug there is, and it is harmful to you in ways you won't ever know until it is too late. The same is true for cigarettes and longterm overuse of alcohol.
      Don
      • 3 Years Ago
      Of course they cant be used. They, and a lot of gadgets cant be used to catch the bad guy. He has more rights than you or I. If you have nothing to hide just what are your chances of being tagged. Another reason could be is that we dont have enough five star prisons to put them in.
        eaw0912
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Don
        Such utter stupidity. You clearly have never studied history and have no idea what it means to live in a free country. Get out now, we don't want any of your kind here.
      • 3 Years Ago
      hi back whoever you are. peace and love throughout the world.
      JC
      • 3 Years Ago
      Isn't that the thingy that the British Secret Service put in Goldfinger's car? Whatever...the SC got it right.
      ddkavanagh
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Supreme Court has ruled just the opposite regarding the privacy of a private boat. Police can board and inspect a boat without a warrent because, according to the Court, one cannot expect privacy while one the water. Go figure. DDK
      glduff
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's not just about finding drug dealers and real world mob kingpins, consider these possibilities. Let's say you buy a Government Motors car and finance it through Government Motors Acceptance Corporation, if you miss a payment do they disable your car? What if you have a few parking tickets? What if the on board computer tells the EPA that your car is out of tune and produces too much CO2? Never trust the government when they want your information.
      Patricia,,,,,
      • 3 Years Ago
      And people wonder why crime is so high or that drugs run rampant....The supreme court must be in some ones pocket for some serious cash...But that doesn't surprise me the rest of the government is screw up.....
        kvh32055
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Patricia,,,,,
        You go girl, and stop off at english class on the way! See, them getting a warrent will prevent idiots like YOU from getting off scott free when busted!
        Rebecca
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Patricia,,,,,
        I understand how you feel about criminals getting off on technicalities. It infuriates me. But.... The problem with this is: who makes the rules about who is followed? First it's drug dealers and terrorists (yea!), then you and me, Big Brother is here and doing well. Our basic freedoms and rights to privacy are eroding, quickly.
        jimmyh51
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Patricia,,,,,
        Personally I don't see where you are violating the right of privacy by tracking someone on a public road. The Supreme court does, so now officers will have to get warrants. It won't prvent them from getting the evidence, it will just delay the eventual arrest, if probable cause is found. Cell phones are going to get interesting, federal courts ,in some parts of this country, have already denied the right of privacy to police officers, who have their personal cell phones on them, while on duty.
        TheZenBanjoist
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Patricia,,,,,
        You need to read something that starts with: WE The People....
          kvh32055
          • 3 Years Ago
          @TheZenBanjoist
          You need to read the para that starts with "remove head from "
        pitciarn
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Patricia,,,,,
        Protecting our CIVIL RIGHTS is important too..
      tj4241
      • 3 Years Ago
      The issue of a warrant to track a car is no trouble, however the cell phone issue is beyond the lack of supreme court common sence. The public has a right to be protected for murder suspects being sought by police before they can kill again as well as kidnapped children having the right to be saved from attackers without the needless delay of arguing with some judge over the suspects right to privacy . Just finding a judge after 5pm or on weekends could need a tracker ,Victims should come first every time, not suspects.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @tj4241
        Sorry but our Constitution applies to everyone, the burden rests with law enforcement that is why needing a warrant is specified in our Constitution. What you are describing is fascism and has no place in the United States.
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Supreme Court still thinks that it can dictate which rights our Creator gave us or didn't give us, and, therefore, we don't have any real rights at all. What we do in public, belongs to the public. As I don't consider the police using such devices a violation of my rights, I'd like to have a referendum on this (as well as many other) decisions.
        Greg & Shannon
        • 3 Years Ago
        Are you out of your mind? All we need is bigger government that has the potential to control every step you make. Good one!
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Greg & Shannon
          Those of you who commented on my remarks seem to forget that the police do not need a warrant to physically track a suspect. An electronice tracking device is just a modern way of doing what was always allowed.
        eaw0912
        • 3 Years Ago
        Stupid people like you don't deserve any rights. And stupid people should not be allowed to vote at all.
      FX
      • 3 Years Ago
      You may want to view this website to see what else the government has in store for us....courtsey of George Soros, the puppet master. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/01/22/george-soros-on-the-coming-u-s-class-war.print.html
      ballisticamax
      • 3 Years Ago
      This move is pretty useless unless the "Patriot Act" & warrantless searches are rule unconstitutional, which they certainly are. Next NATO troops will be sweeping your neighborhood confiscating your firearms and food stashes. In case you are not aware, having more than a three(3) day supply of food makes you eligible for the terrorist watch list. You can thank Comrade Barack Hussein El-ObaMao for this lovely rape of the Constitution.
        FilmFranchise.com
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ballisticamax
        You do realize the Patriot Act was put in place by President Bush? Please stop watching Faux News, it's killing your brain.
          ballisticamax
          • 3 Years Ago
          @FilmFranchise.com
          To my protagonists...Yes, the patriot act was conceived during the Bush administration. However: 1. ObaMao added considerable strengh to the existing verbiage. 2. He could have recinded it, yet he didn't.
        sipiony2
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ballisticamax
        coulda sworn the patriot act was enacted before he took office. Nice try though. I do believe he is entirely responsible for the boogeyman tho. Also Gremlins,. Obama fed gizmo after midnight and then got him wet. Oh, and pollution, the hole in the ozone layer, and the cold war. All obama's fault
          Protowhite
          • 3 Years Ago
          @sipiony2
          exactly. But don't worry he will clear up the debt, because he thinks that by adding more it will eventually reset to 0 like your cars odometer.
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