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Debate Over GPS Devices On Suspects' Cars Spurs 'Big Brother' Concerns

Publication Date: 
September 26, 2011
Contra Costa Times
Thomas Peele

Professor Jeffrey Fisher spoke with Thomas Peele of the Contra Costa Times about the "tricky" types of legal questions before the justices in U.S. vs. Jones, a case which deals with whether the Constitution allows police to put a tracking device on a car without either a warrant or the owner’s permission.

A legal case with implications that some say spring straight from the pages of George Orwell's "1984" is headed to the Supreme Court in November, and its outcome could have a major effect on one of the Bay Area's biggest murder cases in the past decade.

Justices are being asked to decide whether law enforcement officers need a warrant to hide GPS devices on suspects' cars to track their movements using satellites and computers.


The legal questions before the justices in the Jones case are "tricky," said Stanford Law School professor Jeffrey Fisher. "It's such a novel issue."

Among the issues to be considered, he said, is whether placing a tracking device on a car can be considered either a search or a seizure of property. Justices, he said, may view the case more as a privacy issue.