SUPREME COURT RULES SATELITE MONITORING CAN VIOLATE FOURTH AMENDMENT RIGHTS
April 6, 2015
Whether you’re a practitioner of military or civilian law, it is absolutely crucial to stay informed of major legal decisions—especially those concerning constitutional rights. These decisions made by the country's high courts not only parse some of the most complex and subtle issues to arise in the pursuit of justice, but also provide guidance on how to proceed if similar quandaries appear in our own clients' circumstances.
One of these complex issues was present in a recent decision by the Supreme Court. In Torrey Dale Grady v. North Carolina, the justices had to examine what has become a common complication in criminal law—how new technology can affect the Fourth Amendment rights of the accused and the convicted. In this case, Mr. Grady, a repeat sex offender, objected to the use of satellite-based monitoring (SMB) on both his person and his vehicle following the serving of his sentence. According to his counsel, these measures constituted an unreasonable search, which all citizens are protected against under the U.S. Constitution.
North Carolina courts, however, disagreed and ordered Mr. Grady into the monitoring program. The case eventually reached the United States Supreme Court this year and justices had to examine a number of key factors:
- Whether or not the SMB constituted a "search"
- Whether or not the vehicle monitoring, a civil action, could violate a constitutional right
- Whether or not the SMB, if a search, was "unreasonable"
Ultimately, the court sided with Mr. Grady. Examining precedented legal definitions, they decided that the monitoring qualified as a "physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information”—the legal definition of a search. They also determined that even civil actions were subject to these distinctions and that the North Carolina courts—because they failed to view the monitoring as a search—did not consider if the monitoring qualified as an "unreasonable search."
CONFRONTING TECHNOLOGY'S ROLE IN THE LAW
Just as Mr. Grady's case will have be re-evaluated by the state and military courts with a renewed perspective on technology's role in the law, so will countless new cases going forward all over the country. While new communication and monitoring technology is sure to safeguard more of our communities against crime, we must also proceed with caution with how these new capabilities are used substantiate alleged crimes and punish the convicted. This Supreme Court ruling is also instructive to military court practitioners. Use of technology in criminal investigations is at an all time high. Attorneys must be able to spot potential violations of rights during their initial examination of their case.
If you are facing a court-martial and are not sure who to trust with your defense, then we recommend that you contact Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law today. Attorney Jordan has been involved in military for over a decade and continues to stand with personnel all over the world in need to emphatic and experienced defense.
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