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Warrant Required for GPS Tracking, Court Rules

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The next time the police think about slapping a GPS tracking device on your car, they may be required to have a search warrant in their hands beforehand. In an opinion issued Friday, a D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals determined that unwarranted and prolonged GPS surveillance violates constitutionally mandated protections against unreasonable searches.

Federal prosecutors used evidence from GPS tracking devices to convict two D.C.-area nightclub owners, Antoine Jones and Lawrence Maynard, on narcotics charges. The government had argued that the suspects should never have had a reasonable expectation of privacy, since the GPS technology only tracked actions that the men committed in public. The three judge panel, however, saw things differently. "Society recognizes Jones's expectation of privacy in his movements over the course of a month as reasonable, and the use of the GPS device to monitor those movements defeated that reasonable expectation," the court wrote.

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