Supreme Court GPS Ruling: Effects on New Jersey Criminal Investigations

New Jersey Criminal Lawyers Schwartz Posnock

On January 23, 2012, the Supreme Court decided that U.S. law enforcement agents need a search warrant to track a suspect’s movements using a GPS device. In U.S. v. Jones, the Court reversed the conviction and a life-sentence for cocaine trafficking. The Court held that GPS monitoring of the suspect’s movements for over a month provided the key evidence to convict him. This decision is binding on New Jersey law enforcement agents, including the New Jersey State Police and the police departments in every town and city in the State. Criminal defense attorneys in New Jersey should carefully analyze the Jones decision because it has vast implications in terms of cell phone tracking and public surveillance cameras. As technology develops, and permanent records are kept about our daily activities, including purchases of goods and services (such as gasoline, E-Z Pass usage, and online purchases), there is a database compiled that can serve as a road map of everywhere we have been on a given day.  The New Jersey Supreme Court has always been out in front of nearly every other State in terms of safeguarding personal liberties and in providing significant remedies in criminal cases for individuals who have had their privacy violated in the course of a criminal investigation.  It will be interesting to see if New Jersey courts expand on the Jones ruling and extend the Fourth Amendment privacy expectation to other areas of developing technology.

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