Group Calls for Limits on Electronic Tracking by Law Enforcement

Extended use of GPS and other tracking technologies without warrant is unconstitutional, bipartisan group says.

by / September 22, 2011 0

Extended use of electronic tracking technologies without a warrant by law enforcement agencies violates constitutional protections against illegal search and seizure, contends a bipartisan group of lawyers, judges and policymakers.

In a report released Wednesday, Sept. 21, The Constitution Project urged the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress to limit law enforcement use of new surveillance technologies like GPS, which make it easier for police to track an individual’s location at all times.

“We … have concluded that a warrant should be required before the government may track an individual’s movements using these technologies for more than a 24-hour period, and before installing such a tracking device on an individual’s property regardless of the tracking period,” said the report, which was produced by the group’s liberty and security committee.

The group acknowledged the importance of sophisticated electronic tracking technologies to public safety, but said its recommendations would ensure that Fourth Amendment safeguards carry forward into the digital age. The issue currently is before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Former Arkansas Congressman Asa Hutchinson, who is a member of the committee that wrote the report, said technological advances are blurring the line between public and private space. “Today, powerful electronic surveillance devices can intrude on individual privacy even in public places,” he said in a statement posted on The Constitution Project website. “Law enforcement should be able to rely on these new tools, but for sustained tracking, a warrant should be required based upon probable cause.”

The Constitution Project describes itself as a group experts and practitioners from across the political spectrum working to reform the nation’s broken criminal justice system and to strengthen the rule of law.

Sharon Bradford Franklin, the group’s senior policy counsel, said “Thus far, the law has failed to keep pace with technology, and our privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment have been the biggest casualty of this failure.”