(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case Tuesday stemming from the use of a GPS device to track a drug suspect in Washington, D.C. The case in front of the court -- United States v. Jones -- deals with the conviction of Antoine Jones, who owned and managed a nightclub in Washington, D.C. Jones was convicted of drug charges after law enforcement used a variety of techniques to link him to co-conspirators.
One technique was an electronic tracking device, installed secretly without a valid warrant on a Jeep used by Jones.
An appeals court in Washington, D.C., reversed Jones' conviction, finding that the evidence obtained with the GPS device was in violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg, writing for the majority of a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, differentiated between a conventional 24-hour surveillance conducted by law enforcement on public streets and the GPS technology that tracked Jones' movements on such streets 24 hours a day for nearly a month.
"Here, the police used the GPS device not to track Jones' movements from one place to another, but rather to track Jones' movements 24 hours a day for 28 days as he moved among scores of places, thereby discovering the totality and pattern of his movements from place to place."
The judge said that new technology tracking the totality of an individual's movement was different from traditional surveillance techniques.
Lawyers for the Obama administration are appealing the decision, arguing in court papers that all the Jeep's movements were "unquestionably exposed to public view" and, therefore, Jones did not have a "justifiable expectation that his public movements would remain invisible to private or government observation."
But Walter Dellinger, a lawyer for Jones, argued, "You may understand that your neighbor can observe you on a public street. What you cannot expect is that a neighbor would attach a GPS to your car and disclose your every movement."
The justices will also discuss whether the attachment of the device to the car parked in a private driveway violated the Fourth Amendment.
Privacy rights advocates say the case illustrates how new technology has transformed the debate regarding the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
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