In the current digital age where criminals and terrorists use sophisticated methods to achieve their selfish goals, law enforcement agencies find themselves in increasingly challenging situations when it comes to protecting the Fourth Amendment. The courts are also making contradictory rulings, which bring further confusion to the issue. In the two cases presented, the Supreme Court ruled that the police would need a warrant for GPS tracking, while the Appeals Court ruled that law enforcement agencies could compel companies to release cell phone data of their clients (McLaughlin para. 2; Biskupic para. 4).
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Although the two cases may appear contradictory, a careful analysis of each shows that different principles were applied. In the case of the cell phone data, the appellate court ruled that one loses rights and privileges enshrined in the Fourth Amendment once he or she willingly authorizes the third party (the data provider) to have access to personal information. In the Supreme Court’s ruling, it was held that planting a GPS device on one’s car is a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment because no direct or implied permission is given.
Judicial review, as Rubin notes, refers to “a process under which executive or legislative actions are subject to review by the judiciary” (71). The executive may issue orders that may go against the constitution. Sometimes the legislature may enact laws contrary to the Supreme Law of the land because of political pressures. It is the responsibility of the judiciary, through judicial review, to check if the decisions made by these two arms of the government are in line with the constitution.
The Supreme Court, when making its ruling in the above case, held that using GPS goes directly against rights of an individual under the Fourth Amendment. On the other hand, the Appeals Court held that once a person willingly shares personal data with a third party, then state agencies can access it because it is not private anymore.
Judicial review is critical in the modern digital age when it comes to applying the American constitution. Law enforcement agencies are under pressure to fight terrorism, cybercrime, and many other crimes that were not envisioned by the drafters of the constitution.
As these new threats emerge, new methods of dealing with them become necessary, some of which may be seen as going against the Supreme Law. It is the responsibility of the court system to make relevant interpretations to ensure that as officers struggle to fight criminals, they do not infringe upon rights of American citizens. Some of the rulings of the Supreme Court may help improve the existing laws that would help fight emerging crimes.
The court system has made an effort to interpret the law to help address the subject of privacy rights. However, Adam explains that both law enforcement agencies and American citizens have criticized the justice system because of varying reasons (89).
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Law enforcement agencies blame ruling that limit their ability to track criminals and suspected terrorists for increasing cases of attacks across the country. On the other hand, citizens blame the courts for allowing law enforcement agencies access to their cellphone data, claiming it is a breach of their privacy (Rubin 45). The truth is that the court system has done a good job in balancing between the right to privacy and national security.
Adam, Christian. The Politics of Judicial Review: Supranational Administrative Acts and Judicialized Compliance Conflict in the EU. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
Biskupic, Joan. “Supreme Court rules warrant needed for GPS tracking.” USA Today. Web.
McLaughlin, Jenna. “Appeals Court Delivers Devastating Blow to Cellphone-Privacy Advocates.” The Intercept. Web.
Rubin, Robert D. Judicial Review and American Conservatism. Cambridge University Press, 2017.