DailyTech – Ninth Circuit Court Rules in Favor of Warrantless GPS Tracking

Federal agents can now enter your property without warrant and track you in nine western states

Most would consider the Constitution is one of the finest achievements by the U.S. people and has viewed as a paradigm internationally.  However, in an age of technological revolution, members of U.S. local, state, and national level — on both sides of the aisle — are increasingly viewing some of the Constitution’s guaranteed rights as inappropriate or at least subject to review.

Among them is the Fourth Amendment, part of the original Bill of Rights.  It states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

While some developments such warrantless wiretaps or police arrests of people who photograph them have ruffled feathers in the past, a new legal precedent is raising more than a few eyebrows.

Under the laws of California and eight other Western states, state, local, or federal agents can sneak onto your property without a warrant, plant a GPS tracking device on your vehicle and monitor your movements 24-7 — without a warrant.

The ruling has already been upheld at the federal level via a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision.

The case came before the court via the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) 2007 arrest of Juan Pineda-Moreno, an Oregon resident who they suspected was growing marijuana in California.  At night, federal agents snuck on his property without warrants and planted a GPS tracking device on his Jeep.  The data collected later lead to his arrest and prosecution.

Mr. Pineda-Moreno’s appeal to the federal court fell on deaf ears.  The judges who made the ruling told him that his private property (his driveway) was not applicable to Fourth Amendment protections as it was open to strangers, such as delivery people and neighborhood children, who could wander across it uninvited.

Two separate panels of judges on the circuit upheld the decision.  Eventually the Supreme Court will likely be forced to review this ruling.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, who delivered a dissenting opinion on the Ninth Circuit’s decision, says that the result of the current law is to essentially equate justice to the amount of money you have.  He points out that the rich can afford electric gates, fences and security booths have a large protected zone of privacy around their homes — which allow your property to qualify for the states’ creative reinterpretation of Fourth Amendment protections.

Judge Kozinski remarks, “1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it’s here at last.  Some day, soon, we may wake up and find we’re living in Oceania.”