Investigators did not need a warrant when they used GPS tracking to find a suspect in a drug smuggling operation, a federal appeals court ruled.
At the center of United States v. Skinner is the question of whether investigators illegally tracked suspected drug trafficker Melvin Skinner, who was arrested in 2006 near Abilene, Texas. According to The Tennessean, officials used the GPS locations logged by his pay-as-you-go cell phone and found him at a rest stop with a motorhome containing 1,100 pounds of marijuana.
Skinner claimed the Fourth Amendment was violated in the case because investigators did not obtain a warrant. However, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said if a device emits a trackable signal, following their location is similar to watching someone move about in a public space.