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DOJ Asks Justices to Take Case Involving GPS Tracking
Posted By David Stout On April 18, 2011 @ 2:57 pm In News | Comments Disabled
Possibly setting the stage for a major ruling involving modern technology and privacy rights, the Department of Justice has asked the Supreme Court to consider a case about the tracking of a suspect by global positioning system.
The DOJ petitioned the justices on Friday to take the case involving convicted cocaine-dealer Antoine Jones, ending several weeks of suspense. The department had been mulling whether to petition the high court to consider the case, as Main Justice reported  last month.
As The Blog of Legal Times noted , there is a conflict among the federal circuit courts on the extent to which GPS technology can be used without a warrant, and the DOJ asks the high court to provide clarification.
Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal and Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division are among the lawyers on the 121-page petition . “GPS tracking is an important law enforcement tool, and the issue will therefore continue to arise,” the DOJ said. “This Court should intervene to clarify the governing legal principles that apply to an array of investigative techniques, and to establish when GPS tracking may lawfully be undertaken.”
The defendant is a one-time Washington, D.C., night club owner. Last August, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned his conviction and life sentence on grounds that the police unlawfully tracked his car’s movements by using GPS without a warrant.
Three months later, the appeals court voted, 5-4, not to have the full court revisit the panel’s decision, eventually prompting the DOJ to ask the Supreme Court to study the issue.
The American Civil Liberties Union has applauded the D.C. Circuit’s ruling. But the DOJ asserted that there is long-standing Supreme Court precedent “that a person traveling on public thoroughfares has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements from one place to another, even if ‘scientific enhancements’ allow police to observe this public information more efficiently,” as the BLT reported.
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