As modern technology improves, so does law enforcement use of that technology. Cell phones and GPS tracking devices now allow law enforcement officers and agents to obtain detailed information tracking where an individual has been and, in real time, where they are now. Often, the government’s use of cell phone technology and GPS tracking is subject to the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against illegal searches and seizures.
“The Government’s attachment of the GPS device to a vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment.” On January 23, 2012, in United States v. Jones, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously held that the government’s warrant-less use of a tracking device on a motor vehicle constituted a “search” and therefore violated the protections guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.
Although the court unanimously agreed on the holding of the case, the justices split 5-4 about whether to view the Fourth Amendment violation as a governmental trespass upon private property or as a governmental violation of a private citizen’s reasonable expectation of privacy.