The government attached a global positioning device (GPS) to the defendant’s vehicle as it was parked on a public parking lot. The defendant was the exclusive driver of this vehicle. The government learned of the travel patterns of the defendant for the next 28 days. Some of this information led to his indictment for drug trafficking.
Whether the government’s attachment of the GPS to the defendant’s vehicle was a “search?”
Yes. A Fourth Amendment “search” occurs when the government trespasses on a person, house, paper or effect for the purpose of gathering information.
The Court recognized that the “Fourth Amendment provides in relevant part that ‘[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.’ It is beyond dispute that a vehicle is an ‘effect’ as that term is used in the Amendment.” “The Government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information. We have no doubt that such a physical intrusion would have been considered a ‘search’ within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment when it was adopted.” This definition of a “search” [government trespass on “persons, houses, papers and effects” for the purpose of obtaining information] is considered a supplement to and not a replacement of the well-recognized formula of the Katz case [government intrusion on a reasonable expectation of privacy].
565 U.S. 400, 132 S. Ct. 945 (2012)