Appeals court OKs warrantless GPS tracking by feds

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit earlier this month declined to schedule an en banc hearing, or a hearing before all judges in the ninth circuit, as requested by the defendant in a drug-related case. The defendant was seeking to suppress evidence gathered against him by federal agents who attached a GPS device to his vehicle without first obtaining a warrant.

The defendant, Juan Pineda-Moreno of Oregon, claims that U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agents violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search by planting, without a warrant, a tracking device on a vehicle parked in his driveway in 2007. The agents were tracking Pineda-Moreno on suspicion that he belonged to a marijuana growing operation.

A three-judge panel of the appellate court in January rejected Pineda-Moreno's claims and ruled that his constitutional rights were not violated. The court this month rejected a petition by Pineda-Moreno for a rehearing of his case by the full Ninth Circuit panel of judges.

The appellate court's ruling essentially gives law enforcement agencies in the nine Western states under the Ninth Circuit's jurisdiction the legal authority to surreptitiously enter personal property and attach a GPS tracking device on vehicles parked there without first obtaining a warrant.

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