- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 8, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court has expressed deep reservations about police use of GPS technology to track criminal suspects without a warrant.

But the justices appeared unsettled Tuesday about how or whether to regulate GPS tracking and other high-tech surveillance techniques.

The court heard arguments in the Obama administration’s appeal of a court ruling that threw out a drug conspiracy conviction because FBI agents and local police did not have a valid search warrant when they installed a GPS device on the defendant’s car and collected travel information.

The justices were taken aback when the lawyer representing the government said police officers could install GPS devices on the justices’ cars and track their movements without a warrant.


The court has previously ruled there is no expectation of privacy on public roads.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

The Supreme Court is considering whether police use of GPS devices to track criminal suspects requires a judge’s advance approval.

The case being argued Tuesday could have implications for other high-tech surveillance techniques in the digital age.

The Obama administration is appealing a ruling that threw out the drug conspiracy conviction of Antoine Jones of Washington because FBI agents and local police installed a GPS device on Jones‘ car and collected travel information without a search warrant.

The government argues that people have no expectation of privacy concerning their travel on public streets.

The GPS device helped authorities link Jones to a suburban house used to stash money and drugs. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison before the federal appeals court in Washington overturned the conviction.

The appellate judges said the authorities should have had a warrant and pointed to the length of the surveillance _ a month _ as a factor in their decision.

An unusual array of interest groups backs Jones, including the Gun Owners of America, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the American Civil Liberties Union and an association of truck drivers. The groups say GPS technology is much more powerful than the beeper technology police once employed in surveillance.

But the Justice Department says the GPS device is no different from a beeper authorities used, with the high court’s blessing in 1983, to help track a suspect to his drug lab. The court said then that people on public roads have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

The Justice Department said GPS devices are especially useful in early stages of an investigation, when they can eliminate the use of time-consuming stakeouts as officers seek to gather evidence.

Story Continues →