Is A Lifetime Sentence To Wear a GPS Device Constitutional?


When the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that affixing GPS devices to vehicles to track their every move without court warrants was an unconstitutional trespass, the outcome was seen as one of the biggest high court decisions in the digital age, says Ars Technica. That precedent, which paved the way for the disabling of thousands of GPS devices clandestinely tacked onto vehicles by authorities, is now being invoked to question the involuntary placement of GPS devices onto human beings. The Supreme Court is considering whether to review a petition from Torrey Grady, a 36-year-old North Carolina sex offender. After serving three years for “indecent liberties with a child,” he ordered to wear a GPS anklet for life.

The high court ruled in 1997 that sexual predators could be confined against their will to a rehabilitation setting after their criminal prison terms expire under what is known as an “involuntary civil commitment.” The Grady case has broader implications beyond the tens of thousands of sex offenders and other criminals ordered to wear GPS devices. It begs the question of what legal requirements, even for regular citizens, must be met to demand somebody wear a device that tracks one’s every movement, 24 hours a day. Grady, who is labeled a “recidivist” offender because he was also convicted of a sex crime in 1997, was required to wear the monitor after a brief hearing in a civil, non-criminal court that found his two convictions necessitated the ongoing surveillance. There was no consideration of the high court’s GPS decision in the 2012 Jones case.

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