Fourth Amendment

Warrantless GPS Tracking Blocked by Massachusetts Court

Somebody remembered the Fourth Amendment!


In a landmark decision in Commonwealth v. Rousseau, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled this week that people "may reasonably expect not to be subjected to extended GPS electronic surveillance by the government" without a search warrant—whether they are driving the vehicle in question or not.

Police obtained a search warrant to install a GPS device on a car owned by a man suspected in a number of arsons throughout the state and tracked him while he drove the car with his friend and frequent passenger, Rousseau, for over 30 days. After being arrested and charged, both the owner and passenger Rousseau sought to challenge the GPS evidence, arguing that due to misrepresentations in the warrant application, the warrant was invalid. The trial court agreed the misrepresentations made the warrant invalid, but upheld the surveillance anyway, finding that neither the driver or the passenger had a reasonable expectation of privacy in their movements and that for the driver, the physical installation of the GPS device didn't trigger state or federal constitutional scrutiny.