SCOTUS quote of the day – A tiny constable with incredible fortitude.

January 23, 2012
You can't tell a Constable by his size - he's just a teeny little super guy.

You can't tell a Constable by his size - he's just a teeny little super guy. With incredible fortitude.

But it is almost impossible to think of late 18th-century situations that are analogous to what took place in this case. (Is is possible to imagine a case in which a constable secreted himself somewhere in a coach and remained there for a period of time in order to monitor the movement’s of the coach’s owner? [FN 3])

[FN 3] The Court [it its majority opinion] suggests that something like this might have occurred in 1791, but this would have required either a gigantic coach, a very tiny constable, or both—not to mention a constable with incredible fortitude and patience.

-Justice Alito discussing Justice Scalia’s opinion in United States v. Jones, and the confluence of 18th century law, the Fourth Amendment, and GPS searching technology.

I love when a SCOTUS opinion brings home the laughs.


SCOTUS: Warrantless GPS Tracking a Search Under 4th Amendment.

January 23, 2012

You can buy this doormat at Target .com for $18.99. I did.

Today in SCOTUS news, an apparent victory for privacy advocates and those who’d prefer to protect our Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizure.

As the AP reports:

The GPS device helped authorities link Washington, D.C., nightclub owner Antoine Jones to a suburban house used to stash money and drugs. He was sentenced to life in prison before the appeals court overturned the conviction.

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia said that the government’s installation of a GPS device, and its use to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a search, meaning that a warrant is required.

“By attaching the device to the Jeep” that Jones was using, “officers encroached on a protected area,” Scalia wrote.

All nine justices agreed that the placement of the GPS on the Jeep violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.…

Justice Samuel Alito also wrote a concurring opinion in which he said the court should have gone further and dealt with GPS tracking of wireless devices, like mobile phones. He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.

From the little I’ve read about the ruling, it seems like the majority, under Scalia, drew a physical distinction whereas Alito drew a more theoretical line. I look forward to reading a gander at the full opinion.

It’s always a good day for me when the SCOTUS upholds our rights to be free from unreasonable state intrusion in an era when so much government is champing at the bit to take those rights away.

Read move over at NPR’s site and and listen to Nina Totenberg’s take on the matter.

Update [12.50]: Here’s a link to the Jones opinion.

Update [16.34]: Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy has some thoughts about the case.

Update [18.34]: My former criminal procedure professor Donald Tibbs has some thoughts that were picked up by AP

The Supreme Court’s decision is an important one because it sends a message that technological advances cannot outpace the American Constitution…. The people will retain certain rights even when technology changes how the police are able to conduct their investigations.