Massachusetts High Court Holds Denial of Motion to Suppress Gps Location Data Proper Where Defendant Had Device as a Condition of Probation, Finding It to Be a Reasonable Search

In this case, a judge heard and denied a defendant’s motion to suppress historical GPS location data from a device that the defendant had as a condition of probation. The device data helped establish that the defendant broke into a home.

The Court found that although the data retrieval was a search, it was a reasonable one in light of the “defendant’s extensive criminal history and willingness to recidivate while on probation.”

Justice Lenk dissented, arguing that, despite the defendant’s “chutzpah on stilts,” the government needed a warrant to conduct its search of the GPS data since the defendant was off probation. A former probationer, per the dissent, should have all of the same expectations of privacy as someone who was never on probation.

This dissent is necessary reading for anyone who has a client with this particular issue. This is an issue worthy of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.

The case is Commonwealth v. Johnson, 481 Mass. 710, 119 N.E.3d 669, 2019 Mass. LEXIS 173, 2019 WL 1339176 (March 26, 2019).

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