People v. Jones Summary (Drug Trafficking; Conspiracy; Search & Seizure Defense)

In a nine to zero opinion entitled UNITED STATES v. JONES, No. 10-1259, the U.S. Supreme Court, on January 23, 2012, affirmed the U.S. Court of Appeals decision that reversed the U.S. District Court criminal conviction of drug trafficking and conspiracy charges. The Supreme Court confirmed the police conducted a search or seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment when it attached and monitored a GPS device to a vehicle. Although there was a warrant issued to the Government, it required the tracking device to be installed within 10 days, but it was actually installed on the 11th day. Therefore, it was deemed a warrantless search in violation of the reasonable expectation of privacy, and the District Court should have suppressed the evidence. As a result of the Supreme Court granting certiorari (after the DC Circuit Court previously denied a petition for a rehearing by the Government), the U.S. District Court sentence to life imprisonment that was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals was affirmed. It is noteworthy that the Supreme Court did not decide whether installing a GPS device requires a warrant, and if not, whether monitoring a GPS device over a very brief period of time, such as a couple days, requires a warrant.

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