The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that the state government’s requirement that registrants wear a GPS tracking device is an unreasonable search which violates the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Court’s decision is based upon the state government’s failure to prove that GPS tracking is “effective to serve the State’s interest in protecting the public against sex offenders.”
“This is a courageous and wise decision,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci. “Our hope is that courts throughout the nation will choose to follow it.”
In its decision, the Court stated that unless GPS “is found to be effective to actually serve the purpose of protecting against recidivism by sex offenders, it is impossible for the State to justify the intrusion of continuously tracking an offender’s location for any length of time, much less for thirty years.” The registrant in the case was required to wear a GPS device for a total of thirty years.
Also in its decision, the Court noted that “the continuous and dynamic location data gathered by (GPS) is far more intrusive than the static information gathered as a result of sex offender registration.” The Court also noted that GPS data reflects details about a registrant’s familial, political, professional, religious and sexual associations.
Further, the Court noted that it had criticized the state government in a prior case for its lack of empirical evidence to support the premise that GPS use protects the public from sex offenders. In addition, the Court cited favorably a recent decision by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals which held that social science, scientific research, or legislative findings were required in order to uphold another type of sex offender law.