U.S. Supreme Court Catches up with Supreme Court of Washington RE GPS Tracking

In Memoriam | 1952-2023
Almost a decade ago, the Supreme Court of Washington held that the installation and use of GPS devices in vehicles constitutes a search or seizure under Article 1, Section 7 of the Washington State Constitution. State v. Jackson , 150 Wn.2d 251 (2003). This case notwithstanding, the Justice Department has been of the opinion for years that warrants were not required under the Fourth Amendment, and no controlling federal jurisprudence held otherwise.

Now, just a few days ago, the United States Supreme Court has essentially adopted the protections of our state constitution – unanimously holding that the use of GPS devices to track suspects constitutes a search and must therefore be justified by a warrant. U.S. v. Jones , No. 10–1259, slip op. (January 23, 2012).

In that case, police attached a GPS device to the defendant’s vehicle and tracked his movements 24/7 for four weeks. He was subsequently indicted on drug trafficking charges. The trial court suppressed GPS data while the vehicle was parked at the defendant’s residence, but held that the remaining data would be admissible because the defendant didn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy when the vehicle was on public streets. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed, and the US Supreme Court affirmed.

As mentioned above, this is not a novel concept to Washington, whose citizens enjoy broader protection from governmental intrusion than under the Fourth Amendment. The focus of our Article 1, Section 7 (our “Fourth Amendment”) is on “those privacy interests which citizens of this state have held, and should be entitled to hold, safe from governmental trespass.” State v. Myrick , 102 Wn.2d 506, 511 (1984). Therefore, there is a both a subjective and objective component to inquiries under our Article 1, Section 7. In other words, even where advanced technology leads to diminished subjective expectations of privacy, our constitution can still protect citizens from the warrantless use of that technology by recognizing an objective expectation of privacy that our citizens should be entitled to hold safe from governmental trespass. Id .

If you or your property have been searched -- with or without a warrant -- call Baumgarten Law Office at (509) 593-4370 or (888) 445-2878 for a free consultation.
Share To: