A “dangerous” court ruling holds that government agents can sneak onto your property, attach a tracking device to your car, and monitor your every move — without a warrant.
The ruling was originally handed down in January by the three-judge U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers California and eight other Western states. In August, a larger group of judges decided to let it stand.
“It is a dangerous decision — one that, as the dissenting judges warned, could turn America into the sort of totalitarian state imagined by George Orwell,” Adam Cohen, an attorney and former member of the New York Times editorial board, writes in Time magazine.
The case began in 2007, when Drug Enforcement Administration agents suspected Oregon resident Juan Pineda-Moreno of growing marijuana. Agents sneaked onto his property at night and attached a GPS tracking device to the underside of his Jeep, which was parked in his driveway next to his trailer home.
Agents used the device to track the suspect to a marijuana growing site. He was arrested and convicted on marijuana manufacturing charges.
But Pineda-Moreno challenged the DEA’s actions, claiming they violated his Fourth Amendment rights protecting him from unreasonable search and seizure.
“The invasion of his driveway was wrong,” Cohen declared. “The courts have long held that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their homes and in the ‘curtilage,’ a fancy legal term for the area around the home.”
But the Ninth Circuit panel ruled that Pineda-Moreno’s driveway was not private.
“If a neighborhood child had walked up Pineda-Moreno's driveway and crawled under his Jeep to retrieve a lost ball or runaway cat, Pineda-Moreno would have no grounds to complain,” the judges stated. “Thus, because Pineda-Moreno did not take steps to exclude passersby from his driveway, he cannot claim a reasonable expectation of privacy in it, regardless of whether a portion of it was located within the curtilage of his home.”
The court also ruled that the underside of Pineda-Moreno’s Jeep was not private property.
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski dissented from this month’s decision not to reconsider the case, stating: “The panel’s rationale for concluding that Pineda-Moreno had no reasonable expectation of privacy is even more worrisome than its disregard of Supreme Court precedent.”
He also wrote: “1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it’s here at last.”
Cohen warned: “If government agents can track people with secretly planted GPS devices virtually anytime they want, without having to go to a court for a warrant, we are one step closer to a classic police state.”
But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has now ruled that tracking a person for an extended period of time with a GPS device is an invasion of privacy that requires a warrant.
Observers believe the issue will probably be decided by the Supreme Court.
1984 is indeed here folks. From now on, we'd better park in our garages (if you even have one). I also suggest you place a 'No Tresspassing Sign' in a conspicuous place, or places.
Also, isn't it typical the the 9th Circuit upheld this? The 9th is the most liberal of all the Circuit Courts. It's the same circuit that rule California's Prop 8 to be unconstitutional. It's actually located right in the heart of San Francisco. Big surprise.