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Education - The GPS Search Case

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    The GPS Search Case

    State of Florida v. Justin Barber


    TEACHER PACKET: The GPS Search Case - includes petitioner, respondent, justices, marshal & clerk script and materials.

    WORD File / PDF File


    CASE FACTS:

    Sunshine High School has a NO DRUG USE policy that all students agree to follow.  Despite this policy, Sunshine High School continues to have a drug problem among its students.  Drug use is not only illegal, it causes discipline problems.

    Justin Barber is an 18 year old senior at Florida High School.  He is well liked, has many friends, and is smart and hardworking. Justin dreams of going to medical school.  Justin has a problem; his family doesn’t have the money to send him to college. For this reason, Justin has been selling drugs to earn money to pay for school.

    During a recent drug bust at the school, the police were given a tip that Justin was the dealer supplying drugs to students. With this suspicion, the police began to monitor Justin’s activities hoping to catch him. The police decided to follow Justin for a few days. However, in order to improve their efficiency in surveillance, the police attached a GPS tracking device to Justin’s car to help monitor his movements. The GPS pinpointed the car's location every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for 28 days. The police only used the information gathered from the car as it traveled on public roads. This information ultimately led to Justin’s arrest and the seizure of marijuana and cocaine and $50,000 stashed at his house — evidence used against him.
               
    TRIAL COURT PROCEEDINGS & RULING:
    At trial, Justin Barber was found guilty of selling drugs and sentenced to prison. He did not graduate high school with his senior class. 

    Justin and his attorney filed an appeal to the District Court of Appeal arguing that attaching a GPS device to his car without a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure and his right to privacy. The State of Florida argued that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply in this case because the GPS device was used as a surveillance activity by police conducted on public roads where there is no expectation of privacy.

    THE APPEAL:
    The appellate court disagreed with the trial court’s decision and set the conviction aside because the police had failed to get a search warrant before putting the GPS device on Justin’s car. 

    The State of Florida is appealing the DCA decision to the Florida Supreme Court who is now ready to hear oral arguments in this case.

    Constitutional Question the Justices Must Answer:

    Did the police violate the Fourth Amendment when they installed a GPS tracking device without a search warrant on Justin’s car to monitor his movements on public streets?

    RESOURCES & BACKGROUND MATERIALS:

    Based on the United States Supreme Court case 10-1259 - United States v. Antoine Jones (2012).