Supreme Court: Forcing Someone to Wear a Tracking Device is a "Search"

The government's attaching “a device to a person’s body, without consent, for the purpose of tracking that individual’s movements” is a Fourth Amendment search.

In the spring of 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court decided another case about tracking technology and the Fourth Amendment. It had decided in 2012 that police installing a global positioning system (GPS) device on a suspect’s car and monitoring it constitutes a Fourth Amendment search. (United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945 (2012).) This time it determined that imposing a physical monitoring system on someone for tracking purposes is likewise a “search.”

The 2015 case involved a North Carolina man facing satellite-based monitoring via ankle bracelet as a repeat sex offender. The Court didn't say whether the monitoring program violated the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. It did, however, hold that attaching “a device to a person’s body, without consent, for the purpose of tracking that individual’s movements” is a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. (Grady v. N. Carolina, 135 S. Ct. 1368 (2015); for more on the case, see SCOTUS: A Tracking Device Makes for a Search.)