The Fourth Amendment provides protection for individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, property, and effects. However, as technology advances and the need for security in this country increases, individuals’ Fourth Amendment rights are in danger. Global Positioning System (“GPS”) tracking devices can now be easily installed on anyone’s car. The GPS device can then track that person’s movement for an extended period of time through the use of sophisticated computer and satellite technology. Under the current state of the law, the police are able to place these GPS devices on cars or possessions without reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or a warrant.
This convergence of rapidly improving technology and Fourth Amendment rights has created a novel legal issue: If the police install a GPS device without first proving reasonable suspicion or probable cause, or without first obtaining a warrant, have they violated the Fourth Amendment?
The Seventh Circuit recently addressed this issue in United States v. Garcia. In Garcia, the Seventh Circuit found that the installation of a GPS device did not constitute a search. Therefore, there was no Fourth Amendment violation. However, in deciding Garcia, the Seventh Circuit made errors in its reasoning. The court should have found that installing a GPS device constitutes a search; therefore, a warrant should be required prior to installation. Such a holding would allow police to use GPS devices without violating the Fourth Amendment.
The focus of this Comment is not to question whether police should use GPS technology, but rather to argue that police should be required, before using GPS technology, to successfully pass through the gatekeeping functions set out to protect individuals’ Fourth Amendment rights.
Catherine A. Stephens,
Caution! Government Intrusion May Be Closer Than It Appears: The Seventh Circuit Considers GPS Devices Under the Fourth Amendment,
Seventh Circuit Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/seventhcircuitreview/vol3/iss2/7