GPS Sex Offender Monitoring May Be Improper Search, High Court Rules

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North Carolina’s monitoring sex offenders by GPS needs closer judicial scrutiny, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday. In a decision that could rattle a number of states, the court rejected North Carolina's arguments and concluded the ankle-bracelet monitoring program amounts to a search, McClatchy Newspapers reports. The decision means felons like Torrey Dale Grady can challenge the life-long monitoring. “That conclusion, however, does not decide the ultimate question of the program's constitutionality,” the court said, noting that “the Fourth Amendment prohibits only unreasonable searches.”
North Carolina judges must now re-examine the GPS monitoring program through a Fourth Amendment lens that's adapting to new technologies. Whether it's permitted, the high court said, depends on “the nature and purpose of the search and the extent to which the search intrudes upon reasonable privacy expectations.” North Carolina's monitoring program, established in 2006, requires participants to wear transmitters around their ankles and a miniature tracking device around the shoulder or on a belt. A base unit, typically kept at home, is used to charge the equipment.

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