January 23, 2012

Wyden Statement on Supreme Court's Ruling Requiring a Warrant to Track Suspects Using a GPS Device

Congress must provide clear rules for geolocation tracking “so that law enforcement doesn’t have to go all the way to the Supreme Court every time it needs direction.”

Washington, D.C.U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) issued the following statement in response to today’s Supreme Court ruling that the Fourth Amendment requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant before installing a GPS tracking device on an individual’s car and using it to track that person’s movements:

“Today’s ruling confirms that constitutional protections of civil liberties extend to 21st century technology.  However, while this ruling settles the question of whether law enforcement must get a warrant for government-installed tracking devices, it leaves questions related to other methods of electronically monitoring Americans’ movements unanswered. The Justices’ concurring opinions make clear that legislation clarifying how law enforcement can use geolocation devices and providing a clear legal framework for the future is still necessary.

“From reading the several opinions, it seems that a majority of the Supreme Court would agree that secretly turning someone’s cell phone into a tracking device without their knowledge is unconstitutional. However, U.S. law is woefully outdated when it comes to all kinds of location tracking technology.  Congress has a responsibility to step in and provide clear rules and boundaries for the use of these technologies, so that law enforcement doesn’t have to go all the way to the Supreme Court every time it needs direction.  With clear rules in place, law enforcement can ensure that they are using these incredibly powerful technologies in ways that are consistent with the Constitution. At the same time, American citizens will know that their civil liberties will be protected without the need for protracted legal action and unpredictable judicial rulings. This is one area of the law where clarity and uniformity is imperative.

“I’m proud to be part of a bipartisan coalition promoting legislation to establish clear rules for the use of geolocation tracking technology by law enforcement.  I hope that my colleagues will join me, Congressman Chaffetz, Senator Kirk, Congressman Goodlatte, Congressman Welch, and our growing group of cosponsors in supporting the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act (GPS Act).”

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