Bill of Rights In The News: Supreme Court GPS Warrant Ruling

Summary

The United States Supreme Court upheld a District of Columbia Appeals Court ruling on the case United States v. Jones (2012) on Monday, January 23, 2012.  The unanimous decision affirmed that police must obtain a search warrant before using Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to track the vehicles of suspected criminals.  The justices agreed that not obtaining a search warrant in this type of situation was a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights.


Student Handout (PDF)

Teacher Key

Resources:

Supreme Court rules cops need warrant for GPS tracking, Naperville Sun Times
Supreme Court: warrant required for GPS tracking, San Francisco Chronicle
Supreme Court: Warrants needed in GPS tracking, Washington Post
Supreme Court: GPS devices equivalent of a search, police must get warrant, FOX News
Supreme Court Rules GPS Trackers Need Warrants, MSNBC

Questions to Consider:

  1. Why did the Supreme Court determine that using GPS devices to track suspected criminals a violation of the Fourth Amendment?  Are there other Constitutional or Bill of Rights clauses that might also be incorporated into this ruling?
  2. While the justices reached a unanimous decision they had differing reasons for their conclusions.  How did the justices differ in their opinions?  Which opinion do you agree with, if any, and why?
  3. How might this ruling impact other pre-installed GPS devices on Smartphones, vehicles, personal computers, and other electronic devices?