Time magazine commentator Adam Cohen calls “dangerous” and “bizarre” a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruling that says government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This doesn’t violate your Fourth Amendment rights, the court says, because you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway – and no reasonable expectation that the government isn’t tracking your movements. Dissenting judges warned that the case could turn America into the sort of totalitarian state imagined by George Orwell.
This case involves Juan Pineda-Moreno, an Oregon resident who federal drug agents suspected was growing marijuana. They snuck onto his property in the middle of the night and found his Jeep in his driveway, a few feet from his trailer home. Then they attached a GPS tracking device to the vehicle’s underside. After Pineda-Moreno challenged the DEA’s actions, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled that it was all perfectly legal. A larger group of judges on the circuit decided this month to let it stand. (Pineda-Moreno has pleaded guilty conditionally to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and manufacturing marijuana while appealing the denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained with the help of GPS.)