GPS devices put on convicted felons are 4th Amendment searches, rules Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that when police install a GPS monitoring unit on a person's body after he or she has been convicted of a crime, this amounts to a search under the 4th Amendment, USA Today reports.  At issue in Grady v. North Carolina is a law that requires convicted sex offenders to wear a GPS tracking device for the rest of their lives. The Court did not decide based on the facts of the case whether the search was reasonable, but remanded the case for the lower courts to make this determination. Still, the case could have an impact on the large number of states, Ohio among them, that use GPS monitoring for sex offenses and other crimes.

In the summary opinion, the Court likened the case to US v. Jones, wherein the Court had found that the government's actions in placing a GPS device on a suspect's vehicle constituted a search. The justices also rejected the State's argument that North Carolina's practice didn't amount to a 4th Amendment search because it was for civil purposes rather than a criminal investigation, holding that, "the government’s purpose in collecting information does not control whether the method of collection constitutes a search."

For more information about this case, see SCOTUS Blog coverage and this article.