SCOTUS grants review for sex offender ordered to wear tracker for life

Greg Nash

A North Carolina man who was convicted of multiple sexual offenses and forced to wear a GPS ankle bracelet for the rest of his life is entitled to a review under the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. 

The Supreme Court instructed a lower court to reevaluate whether the GPS tracker represents an “unreasonable” search after the state’s high court failed to do so in its previous decision. 

{mosads}“The State’s program is plainly designed to obtain information,” according to a short opinion handed down Monday. “And since it does so by physically intruding on a subject’s body, it effects a Fourth Amendment search.”

The case focuses on Torrey Dale Grady, who was convicted of two crimes that qualify him as a recidivist sexual offender. Those include a 1997 charge of second-degree sexual offense and a 2006 charge of “taking indecent liberties with a child.”

North Carolina courts and another appeals court had previously rejected his arguments that a state law, which required him to wear a GPS tracker for the rest of his life, violated his Fourth Amendment rights. 

The Supreme Court on Monday did not rule on the merits of the case. Instead, it found that the lower court had erred by concluding that attaching the GPS tracking device to Grady’s ankle did not constitute a search that falls under the Fourth Amendment. 

“The only theory we discern … is that the State’s system of nonconsensual satellite-based monitoring does not entail a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment,” the Supreme Court wrote. “That theory is inconsistent with this Court’s precedents.”

The lower court could still determine the GPS tracker is a reasonable search. The Supreme Court noted it has previously found that a search of a parolee was reasonable even without any suspicion of a crime. It also upheld the random drug testing of student-athletes. 

“The reasonableness of a search depends on the totality of the circumstances, including the nature and purpose of the search and the extent to which the search intrudes upon reasonable privacy expectations,” according to the court. 

Tags GPS sexual offender Supreme Court

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