Putting Grady v North Carolina in Context

by | Jun 30, 2015

In March, 2015, the Law Office of Mark Hayes and Prof. Luke Everett of UNC Law School successfully argued that requiring a criminal defendant to participate in a satellite-based monitoring system constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. Discussing the case, Grady v. North Carolina, Durham-based appellate attorney Mark Hayes said, “I think one of the reasons why the public was so interested in following our appeal, other than the fact that it was a Supreme Court case, was the negative view our country has of government searching and monitoring, particularly post-Snowden.”

For example, many have claimed that the NSA searches into phone calls and emails of American citizens were unreasonable, and thus unconstitutional, searches because they were performed without warrants. Additionally, the American Civil Liberties Union recently sued a Florida police department for using cellphone tracking devices on citizens, which was also done without warrants. However, as the above examples indicate, the continual and rapid evolution of technology is rendering more difficult the question of what constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology writer Caline Hou captured the problem well in her recent article on Grady, saying, “[w]hen the Constitution was first written, it was much easier to determine when a search occurred and when one did not…. However, with the advancement of technology, especially global positioning system (GPS) technology, courts are having to handle more cases where determining whether a search occurred is more ambiguous.”

Attorney Mark Hayes knows that, with technologies such as GPS tracking and digital footprint recording, courts will be forced more and more frequently to define what constitutes a search within an ever-changing technological context. At least in the case of Grady v. North Carolina, with the help of the Law Office of Mark Hayes, one individual was able to limit the government’s reach through the legal system.

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