This Article analyzes United States v. Jones, in which the Supreme Court considered whether government placement of a global positioning system (GPS) device on a vehicle to follow a person’s movements constituted a Fourth Amendment “search.” The Jones Court ruled that two distinct definitions existed for a Fourth Amendment “search.” In addition to Katz v. United States’s reasonable-expectation-of-privacy standard, which the Court had used exclusively for over four decades, the Court recognized a second kind of search that it called a “classic trespassory search.” The second kind of search occurs when officials physically trespass or intrude upon a constitutionally protected area in order to obtain information. This work examines the concerns created by Jones’s ruling. This Article asserts that, by emphasizing property rights in bringing back the decades-old physical trespass test, Jones potentially undermined the Katz standard. Further, Jones added an inquiry into motivation by asking if the government committed the intrusion to obtain information, thus creating a subjective inquiry that is inconsistent with much of Fourth Amendment doctrine. Finally, in its attempt to distinguish its facts from earlier vehicle-tracking cases, the Court created a loophole in Fourth Amendment application that law enforcement could exploit in the future.
George M. Dery III & Ryan Evaro,
The Court Loses its Way with the Global Positioning System: United States v. Jones Retreats to the “Classic Trespassory Search”,
Mich. J. Race & L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjrl/vol19/iss1/3