GPS Tracking of Criminal Suspects at Issue for Supreme Court

29 Nov

With every advent of new technology comes a host of constitutional issues, particularly in relation to law enforcement’s use of that technology to apprehend criminal suspects.  The latest technology to be on the United States Supreme Court’s radar is global positioning systems, known by most people as GPS.  The question in the context of criminal cases is whether tracking a person’s movement with a GPS device is a search or when does it become a search that requires a warrant.

A petition has been filed in the United States Supreme Court by attorneys for Juan Pineda-Moreno, an Oregon man whose car federal narcotics agents placed a GPS device on his car and lead agents to a large marijuana growing operation.  A copy of the petition is here.  Mr. Pineda-Moreno pled guilty to one count of growing more than 1,000 marijuana plants on the condition that he could challenge, by appeal, the GPS tracking.  Mr. Pineda-Moreno was sentenced to over 4 years in prison.  The trial court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the GPS tracking was not a search.  The Supreme Court will decide in the near future whether to take the case.

This blog entry is written by Chris Renz, a shareholder at Thomsen Nybeck. Chris practices in the litigation area of the firm with primary focus on wind energy-related lease litigation, real estate litigation, employment litigation, townhome and condominium law, and criminal law, particularly as the prosecutor for the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

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