Supreme Court Vacates State Court Ruling Which Allowed Lifetime GPS Monitoring of Sex Offender Via Ankle Bracelet

New arguments ordered in Fourth Amendment case.


Credit: Library of Congress

In 2014 the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld a state court decision which said that the Fourth Amendment was not violated when state officials required a convicted sex offender to wear a GPS tracking device on his ankle for life. "Defendant essentially argues that if affixing a GPS to an individual's vehicle constitutes a search of the individual, then the arguably more intrusive act of affixing an ankle bracelet to an individual must constitute a search of the individual as well. We disagree," that court said.

In a per curiam opinion issued today, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the North Carolina Supreme Court's ruling and sent the case back to state court for further proceedings.

"The State's program is plainly designed to obtain information," the U.S. Supreme Court observed today in Grady v. North Carolina. "And since it does so by physically intruding on a subject's body, it effects a Fourth Amendment search." But that is not the end of the inquiry, the Court continued. Because "the Fourth Amendment protects only unreasonable searches," the key question is whether "the State's monitoring program is reasonable." The North Carolina courts must now answer that question.

The Supreme Court's per curiam opinion in Grady v. North Carolina is available here.