Court rejects govt. use of GPS tracking

August 7, 2010

By Jim McElhatton-The Washington Times

Ruling that federal agents erred in attaching a satellite tracking device to a vehicle without a search warrant, a federal appeals court Friday reversed the life sentence of man accused of running a major Washington drug ring.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District found that the government’s use of GPS technology to track the defendant Antoine Jones‘s Jeep violated the Fourth Amendment.

Civil liberties groups that aided in the appeal of Jones, whose case involved the largest cocaine seizure in city history, called the ruling an important legal victory for privacy rights.

The three-judge ruling called the GPS information key to the federal prosecution of Jones, who owned Club Levels in Northeast Washington across the street from the Metropolitan Police Department‘s Fifth District headquarters.

“The GPS data were essential to the government’s case,” the court ruled. “By combining them with Jones‘s cell-phone records the government was able to paint a picture of Jones‘s movements that made credible the allegation that he was involved in drug trafficking.”

Stephen Leckar, one of the attorneys on the Jones appeal, said the ruling “recognizes the Fourth Amendment’s continued significance in promoting privacy in a high-tech age.”

“The decision simply tells law enforcement agents that they need a judge’s decision before trespassing on a person’s car and attaching a device that tracks and records him or her relentlessly over time and space.”

The decision was also hailed by outside groups that aided in the appeal.

“Today’s decision brings the Fourth Amendment into the 21st century,” Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area, said in a statement announcing the decision.

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