The Court of Appeals in U.S. v. Jackson decided on August 22, 2019, reversed and remanded to the trial court granting of Jackson’s suppression motion for 4th amendment violations.
Jackson who was on probation for Robbery was placed by Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (“CSOSA”) on GPS tracking system. The GPS tracking system accessed by MPD revealed and placed him at a scene of another robbery which resulted in him being arrested and charged with that crime.
Jackson argued at trial that CSOSA violated his Fourth Amendment rights first by placing him on GPS monitoring without judicial approval and secondly by sharing that information with MPD, which resulted in his arrest.
The Court of Appeals held that CSOSA’s GPS monitoring of Jackson without judicial authorization was a constitutional pursuant to the “special needs” search exception to 4th amendment.
Such searches are permissible and deem constitutional because Jackson’s reasonable expectation of privacy as a convicted offender on probation was diminished and outweighed by the governmental supervisory authority to deter and detect criminal activity or to monitor convicted criminals.
The Court expounded that the Fourth Amendment permits probation to intrude significantly on probationers’ privacy without judicial because probationers’ reasonable privacy expectations are diminished and are outweighed by the heightened governmental interests in deterring them from re-offending and promoting their rehabilitation.
Moreover, a warrant requirement would interfere with the probation system as it replaces the probation officers with magistrate judges. This would be both ineffective and impractical and the inherent delay in obtaining a warrant would make it more difficult for the probation officials to respond quickly and would reduce the deterrent effect of expeditious searches.
On the issues of constitutionality of sharing the GPS tracking data with MPD, the Court of Appeals held in short that such sharing would not violate the defendant’s 4th amendment right to privacy.
That is, Jackson did not have an objectively reasonable expectation that probation would withhold the GPS tracking data from the police. Moreover, the limited police examination of that data, which focused on searching and determining whether any monitored CSOSA supervisee was present during commission of an armed robbery did not violate Mr. Jackson’s Fourth Amendment rights.
The constitutional issue in Court’s view was whether Jackson had an objectively reasonable expectation that CSOSA would not share his GPS data with the MPD and such an exception the Court concluded would not have been reasonable.
CSOSA and the MPD have a shared and common mission to reduce and prevent crime and thus have implemented a two-way automated data sharing arrangements. At any time, the MPD can search the GPS database to determine the location of an offender.
Overall, the Court held that there is no evidence that CSOSA’s sharing of its GPS tracking data with the MPD exposes monitored supervisees to a materially greater intrusion on their privacy or result in materially different use of the information gained.
That is, the police did not use Mr. Jackson’s GPS data to pry into his intimate or private affairs or the details of his personal life but tracked and located him during a commission of crime while on GPS tracking and being monitored by probation.
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