In an unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court decided that police must acquire a search warrant prior to placing a tracking device on a drug suspect’s car. This decision is a victory for anyone interested in preserving the Constitution or protecting us from police powers, which have grown tremendously since George W. Bush’s presidency. An unwarranted tracking of a suspect’s car is essentially an unwarranted search of the individual, and threatens to infringe on our right to a reasonable expectation of privacy. The justices were split on their reasons for how 4th Amendment rights were violated by this process, indicating that there is still ample uncertainty surrounding modern tracking methods.
I still want to know what degree of electronic tracking is considered permissible, and the Court didn’t really answer that. I’m glad they said this was an overreach, but what if the tracking was done without a physical device being attached to the car? What are the parameters for tracking a person by their cell phone? The technological possibilities of the age raise new questions that likely neither Congress nor the Court is capable of resolving, but as Congress has plunged ahead anyway with things like the PATRIOT Act, the Court has to serve its role to check the powers that violate our Constitutional rights as best it can. This unanimous ruling affirms our 4th Amendment rights, but they’re being violated in many other places. Hopefully the Court will continue to take on 4th Amendment cases to clarify the role of electronic surveillance and tracking in our country.