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United States v. Jones

Supreme Court of the United States

November 8, 2011, Argued; January 23, 2012, Decided

No. 10-1259


 [*402]  [**948]  Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court.

We decide whether the attachment of a Global-Positioning-System (GPS) tracking device to an individual's vehicle, and subsequent use of that device to monitor the vehicle's movements on public streets, constitutes a search or seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

In 2004 respondent Antoine Jones, owner and operator of a nightclub in the District of Columbia, came under suspicion of trafficking in narcotics and was made the target of an investigation by a joint Federal Bureau Investigation and Metropolitan Police Department task force. Officers employed various investigative techniques, including visual surveillance of the nightclub, installation of a camera focused on the front door of the club, and a pen register and wiretap covering Jones's cellular phone.

Based in part on information gathered from these sources, in 2005 the Government applied to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for a warrant authorizing the use of an electronic tracking device on the Jeep Grand Cherokee registered [***917]  to Jones's wife. A warrant issued, authorizing  [*403]  installation of the device in the District of Columbia and within  [****5] 10 days.

On the 11th day, and not in the District of Columbia but in Maryland,1 agents installed a GPS tracking device on the undercarriage of the Jeep while it was parked in a public parking lot. Over the next 28 days, the Government used the device to track the vehicle's movements, and once had to replace the device's battery when the vehicle was parked in a different public lot in Maryland. By means of signals from multiple satellites, the device established the vehicle's location within 50 to 100 feet, and communicated that location by cellular phone to a Government computer. It relayed more than 2,000 pages of data over the 4-week period.

The Government ultimately obtained a multiple-count indictment charging Jones and several alleged co-conspirators with, as relevant here, conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 50 grams or more of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S. C. §§ 841 and 846. Before trial, Jones filed a motion to  [****6] suppress evidence obtained through the GPS device. The District Court granted the motion only in part, suppressing the data obtained while the vehicle was parked in the garage adjoining Jones's residence. 451 F. Supp. 2d 71, 88 (2006). It held the remaining data admissible, because “ '[a] person traveling in an automobile on public thoroughfares has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements from one place to another.' ” Ibid. (quoting United States v. Knotts, 460 U.S. 276, 281, 103 S. Ct. 1081, 75 L. Ed. 2d 55 (1983)). Jones's trial in October 2006 produced a hung jury on the conspiracy count.

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565 U.S. 400 *; 132 S. Ct. 945 **; 181 L. Ed. 2d 911 ***; 2012 U.S. LEXIS 1063 ****; 80 U.S.L.W. 4125; 23 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 102; 2012 WL 171117


Subsequent History: Writ of mandamus denied In re Jones, 670 F.3d 265, 399 U.S. App. D.C. 300, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 4575 (2012)

Post-conviction relief denied at United States v. Jones, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95395 (D.D.C., July 14, 2014)

Related proceeding at, Dismissed by Jones v. Kirchner, 66 F. Supp. 3d 237, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125226 (D.D.C., 2014)

Prior History: United States v. Maynard, 615 F.3d 544, 392 U.S. App. D.C. 291, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 16417 (2010)

Disposition:  [****1] Affirmed.


privacy, monitoring, trespass, surveillance, electronic, intrusion, tracking, installation, seizure, phone, conversations, beeper, concurrence, technology, invaded, trespassory, wiretapping, conspiracy, long-term, telephone, cocaine, signals, streets

Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Search & Seizure, General Overview, Scope of Protection, Criminal Law & Procedure, Eavesdropping, Electronic Surveillance & Wiretapping, Electronic Beepers, Pagers & Tracking Devices, Expectation of Privacy