Investigators Watch as Supreme Court Takes-Up GPS Case

To view this article, checkout Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You coming to in December 2012.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective.

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit

 © Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011

5 Responses

  1. Rudy B.

    The Forth Amendment is, as you have stated Steve, a protection from unreasonable search and seizure. A warrant must be issued upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation and a description of the place and things to be searched and seized included. Carroll v. U.S. allows for a warrantless search of an automobile (is valid) when P.C. is present.
    But this, or course, is just the beginning of the story. The writers of the Constitution viewed intrusion as one of property; after all to view my papers, records, effects you had to come to my home ,office or place of work. That is not true today;when did it change? That was the day one man said to another, over a copper wire “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.”
    Olmstead v. U.S. 277 U.S. 438 (1928) the Supreme Court stated wiretapping does not violate the 4th Amend. unless there is a trespass into a “constitutionally protected area.” That was the law until Katz v. U.S. 389 U.S. 347 (1967). Katz had entered a phone-booth, unknown to him a small micro-phone recorded him wagering. Per the Supreme Court – He had a reasonable expectation to privacy, no physical trespass was required. Now I believe the phone-booth is long gone, just how would that case be viewed today as people “scream-out” conversations on c-phones?
    Think of the digital track you leave everyday; e-mails sent and recieved or placed into draft.C-phone calls made, recieved, simply having it on causes a record of movement, your internet searches and GPS tracks all available and stored forever,someplace! Arrays of laws allow access some w/o a court order.
    Attitudes and actions set the norm and a minority here (remember the yeller into the c-phone) may well set the standard for the majority of us. The 4th Amend. is simple, stated as succinctly as possible it means “stay the hell away from me absent P.C.”
    The attachment of the GPS device to an auto absent a warrant or permission is a violation of a reasonable expectation of privacy and a possible 5th Amend. issue as well, the court will find so.

    October 26, 2011 at 2:24 am

  2. Steve Spingola

    Rudy, thanks for the thoughtful post.

    This current conservative group of U.S. Supreme Court justices kind of has me confused. In Gant v. Arizona they restricted LE’s authority to search a vehicle and its containers ala Belton v. New York; however, they apparently see nothing wrong with an arrestee’s cell phone being taken to the district, incident to arrest, and the hard drive searched. How is this search of the cell phone justified for officer safety incident to arrest? As such, my guess is Chief Justice Roberts et al will not have a problem with the GPS being affixed to a vehicle parked in a quasi-public place.

    The scary Big Brother searches pertaining to cell phone tracking, etc. seems like a trampling of the Constitution. Why should any government agent be permitted access to such data absent a court order (a search warrant, T3 wire tap, or a subpoena)? These fusion units have the ability to use the cell phone as a microphone; follow a person’s movements through a dwelling; and ping cell phones that are turned-off, all without a court order. Where does it stop absent a ruling from the Supreme Court?

    October 26, 2011 at 3:13 am

  3. Dave Kane

    What scares me even more than having a GPS attached to my car or having my cell phone pinged is Obama having a Website so that people can report naughty comments about him. Can you say…”Stalin-esque?” I do believe that we have gone well beyond George Orwell’s “1984,” by leaps and bounds. This socialist communist wants our guns, and if he can’t get them now, he wants to know where they can be found later.

    Dave K

    October 27, 2011 at 10:56 pm

  4. Rudy B.

    I wanted to add a thought or two with respect to this post for both the consideration of LE-readers but especially the numerous students who, on a regular basis, visit this site. The question before the court will be how the 4th Amendment will apply when faced with the unceasing development of technology; your protection from unreasonable search/seizure in an array of very new application. Antoine Jones came to the attention of the FBI -HIDTA I assume- as a person selling drugs in the D.C. area. The agents first secured a warrant but failed to attach the device before the warrant expired. They did affix the GPS equipment afterwards but in Maryland which was not the warrant’s original jurisdiction-had been D.C. the equipment was attached to his car for about a month, afterwards Jones was arrested , based in part on the information deposited on the GPS. Jones first appealed to the Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit; they found the FBI’s action was unconstitutional as it had violated his “reasonable expectation to privacy”- see Katz v. U.S. above. The court continued that the “GPS surveillance of an auto on public roads and in locations readily observed by LE was different than a stakeout or conventional surveillance.” The case was placed on the calendar for the Supreme Court consideration. So ask yourself this, was the action taken by the agent’s reasonable? After all when an arrest is made and a charge issued, you do not prove yourself guilty; that is the duty of the state or other jurisdiction so charging one. Why is it your duty to prove a reasonable expectation of privacy? Does the 4th Amendment mean every action taken by a goverment agent must be defended by the aggrieved person? The nonstop long-term tracking absent a warrant or consent is, of course, unconstitutional. Allow me these last points for reflection: first the vehicle Jones operated although on a public road ( name one you use regularly that is not) or quasi-private area’s is privately held, that is , by Jones. Just as your apartment/ home is held by you and as such you have a right to exclude others from its use. Or someone need define privately held to me. Finally the information garnerad is fruit of the poisonous tree and gained while acting as a witness against myself, as if compelled w/o knowing I had done so. I like you do not care for drug seller or criminals in general; but if this decay of constitutional rights is left unabated the next generation will see it as normal and then?

    October 28, 2011 at 7:14 pm

  5. Rudy B.

    9-yes/0-no: God Bless the U.S. Constitution!

    February 23, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>