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U.S. Supreme Court

Justices Cite George Orwell as They Consider Constitutionality of Warrantless GPS Tracking

Posted Nov 9, 2011 8:53 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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George Orwell’s novel 1984 and its Big Brother society got several mentions as Supreme Court justices considered Tuesday whether police can use a GPS device to track suspects without getting a warrant.

Deputy U.S. Solicitor General Michael Dreeben argued that police can use technology to track suspects’ movements without warrants in any public places, but not in private homes. USA Today, the New York Times, the National Law Journal (reg. req.) and the Los Angeles Times have stories.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. took his questioning to a personal level. "You could tomorrow decide that you put a GPS device on every one of our cars, follow us for a month, no problem under the Constitution?" he asked Dreeben.

As long as the tracking was done on public streets, police wouldn’t need a warrant, Dreeben answered.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer told Dreeben that if the government wins the case, “then there is nothing to prevent the police or the government from monitoring 24 hours a day the public movement of every citizen of the United States.” Breyer added that it “sounds like 1984.”

The case, United States v. Jones, is an appeal by Antoine Jones, who was convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine after police installed a GPS device on his Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Chemerinsky: Keeping Up with the Joneses—How Far Does the ‘Reasonable Expectation of Privacy’ Go?"

ABAJournal.com: :"Supreme Court Accepts Case Challenging GPS Surveillance Without a Warrant"

ABAJournal.com: "Judges Cite Orwell in Opinions on GPS Tracking of Suspects; Issue Goes to Supreme Court"

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