The ruling hinged on a 2007 police investigation into Juan Pineda-Moreno, who was suspected of growing cannabis in Oregon. Police attached a device to the suspect's truck which was parked outside his trailer home.
The court ruled that because the driveway around the home was not completely enclosed the defendant had no expectation of privacy under his Fourth Amendment rights and the police could enter without a warrant. Furthermore the monitoring of the device was also legal.
However Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, a strong conservative appointed by Ronald Reagan, wrote a blistering minority dissension of the verdict.
"I don't think that most people in the United States would agree with the panel that someone who leaves his car parked in his driveway outside the door of his home invites people to crawl under it and attach a device that will track the vehicle's every movement and transmit that information to total strangers," he wrote.
"There is something creepy and un-American about such clandestine and underhanded behaviour. To those of us who have lived under a totalitarian regime, there is an eerie feeling of déjà vu."
The ruling means that any person within the nine Western states can now be tracked by police at will, and any area of their property not explicitly fenced off is considered open ground. Sleuth predicts that right now the EFF is a hive of activity.
This issue isn't settled yet - other cases have yet to be decided and it is certain to end up in the Supreme Court. The highest court is perceived by some to have a right wing bias but Kozinski's attack, from a conservative with such impeccable credentials, may give privacy advocates hope. Sleuth highly recommends you read the whole ruling, it's a classic.
"1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it's here at last," he warns.
"Some day, soon, we may wake up and find we're living in Oceania."
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