The Supreme Court on Monday put the brakes on the government’s use of high-tech monitoring devices to track motorists, ruling unanimously that police and the FBI violated the 4th Amendment by attaching a GPS device to a Jeep owned by a drug suspect.
The justices all agreed that the government needs a search warrant from a judge before it seeks to track a suspect by secretly installing a device on his car.
There’s a little bit of division on the ruling, with Scalia taking the narrower view that it was the placing of the device that violated the Fourth Amendment, while Alito thinks the tracking of the car in general was a violation.
Here’s why these attempts to bypass warrants bother me: warrants are generally easy to get. This is especially true of the FISA Court, which almost never rejects a petition, but even lower courts are fairly generous about this. To track a drug dealer, a simple undercover buy could establish a reason for a warrant. So why the big push to avoid them?
In any case, I’m glad to see the Court bounce this. Maybe it’s just me, but they seem to be having a pretty good session this year. Wouldn’t be interesting if Bush’s biggest achievement was the Roberts Court?