Man at Center of Unwarranted GPS Controversy to Get Retrial
Last January, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that placing a GPS tracking device on someone’s vehicle or elsewhere on their person without a proper warrant falls under the Fourth Amendment right of unwarranted search and seizure, meaning police and other authorities would need a proper warrant before placing a device. This decision was monumental for some people, who felt that they had been tracked unjustly and without a proper reason. This decision came as the result of a case in which an alleged drug dealer, Antoine Jones, was convicted and tried as a result of evidence gathered by the use of a GPS tracking device. He was found not guilty after the evidence gathered by said GPS device was thrown out due to the fact that police did not have a proper warrant for the GPS device at the time when it was installed.
The prosecuting team of this man, however, is not deterred. They have decided to move forward with a new trial for Jones, the alleged drug dealer, based in Washington, DC. As a direct result of this case, the Supreme Court ruled that because installing a GPS device requires a physical intrusion, it counts as a search and seizure of someone’s property, and therefore cannot be performed on any level without a proper warrant.
As part of their initial investigation, police had placed a GPS device on Jones’ car to track his whereabouts and movements for a one mother period in 2005. The evidence appeared conclusive; Jones was seen and recorded going to a known crack house on more than one occasion. However, the Supreme Court ruled that investigators needed a proper search warrant signed by a superior before they could place the GPS device, which they did not have.
The prosecutors have made it their intension to secure another trial for Jones, which the superior judge in the DC area sent back to the Supreme Court for another hearing.
Judge Ellen Huvelle on Monday tentatively set a May 7 trial and also scheduled a status conference for next week, court records show. Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District, confirmed that prosecutors are seeking another trial for Jones but declined to comment how the Supreme Court ruling would affect the government’s evidence.
Evidence obtained from the GPS tracking formed a key part of the prosecution’s case: An indictment details Jones’ movements to and from the purported stash house, including how long he spent there on some occasions. But the indictment also describes other evidence against Jones, such as his conversations with other members of the drug ring.
The new trial will be Jones’ third. One trial ended in a mistrial; he was convicted at a second trial in 2008 and was sentenced to life in prison.
His case made its way to the Supreme Court after the federal appeals court in D.C. overturned his conviction in 2010, saying the GPS use violated Jones’ reasonable expectations of privacy.
The Department of Justice had argued that it didn’t need a warrant to use a GPS device to track Jones in his vehicle because his movements could be observed on public roadways.