What is the difference between tailing a criminal's car and putting a GPS tracker on it?
Ruling that federal agents erred in attaching a satellite tracking device to a vehicle without a search warrant, a federal appeals court has reversed the life sentence of man accused of running a major Washington drug ring.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Friday found that the government's use of GPS technology to track defendant Antoine Jones' Jeep violated the Fourth Amendment.
Civil liberties groups that aided in the appeal of Mr. Jones, whose case involved the largest cocaine seizure in city history, called the ruling an important legal victory for privacy rights.
The three-judge ruling called the GPS information key to the federal prosecution of Mr. Jones, who owned Club Levels in Northeast Washington across the street from the Metropolitan Police Department's Fifth District headquarters.
"The GPS data were essential to the government's case," the court ruled. "By combining them with Mr. Jones's cell-phone records, the government was able to paint a picture of Mr. Jones's movements that made credible the allegation that he was involved in drug trafficking." . . .