Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit Court rejected a hearing on the legality of evidence collected by a warrantless GPS tracking system installed by FBI agents on the vehicle of a man suspected of being involved in a cannabis grow operation in Oregon.
Juan Pineda-Moreno of Oregon accepted a guilty plea with the condition that he could take his case to the Ninth Circuit Court to have the full panel of judges review the constitutionality of the evidence collected by the GPS device. Federal agents twice snuck into the defendant’s driveway and attached a GPS tracking device to his Jeep. The judges who rejected the appeal likened the agent’s actions to a neighbor retrieving a lost ball from under the car, or the delivery of a newspaper.
The upshot of this is that, currently, the Ninth Circuit Court and its constituencies uphold the ability of federal agents to, without a warrant or any permission from anyone, can slap a GPS tracking device on any vehicle in a public area that doesn’t explicitly have “No Trespassing” signs on it. Because we don’t have an expectation of privacy – or not being unreasonably searched – in our own driveways.
Some state laws (Ohio comes to mind, although Ohio isn’t under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit Court) would allow homeowners to use deadly force against suspicious trespassers. Somehow you can have the reasonable expectation of the right to shoot someone, but your car is fair game for as many tracking devices as they can fit on it. Something here seems out of place.
Luckily, an appellate court in Washington, DC recently ruled that federal agents had no right to warrantlessly track people using GPS devices, so hopefully it won’t be long before this ruling is overturned by a higher court.