State v. Grady, 826 S.E.2d 451 (N.C. 2019)
Nature of Case: Appellant, under North Carolina law, was required to be subjected to mandatory lifetime GPS monitoring. North Carolina law required lifetime GPS for certain categories of individuals, including those who had been convicted of multiple sexual offenses, without an individualized Fourth Amendment analysis as to the reasonableness of the GPS monitoring (legally construed as a “search”).
The trial court had ruled that the imposition of mandatory GPS monitoring was permissible in Appellant’s case, and Appellant sought review. The North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the monitoring was unreasonable (and thus unconstitutional) as applied to Appellant. State then sought review from the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Holding: North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part.
The Court rejected the state’s contention that the warrantless search contemplated by GPS monitoring was encompassed within the “special needs” doctrine, and that the search cannot be justified on the basis of diminished Fourth Amendment privacy rights for people who are required to register as sex offenders.
In analyzing the reasonableness of the search, the Court notes that GPS monitoring is significantly intrusive, and that people who are no longer under criminal supervision have not surrendered their Fourth Amendment rights.
Additionally, while the state sought to justify the warrantless search on purportedly high rates of re-offending, the Court observed that the state presented no evidence on this point and simply relied on prior judicial declarations. The Court further rejected the notion that it was bound to rely on legislative declarations of fact when conducting its analysis.
In sum, the Court affirmed the North Carolina Court of Appeals’ decision declaring that the GPS monitoring program was unconstitutional as applied to Appellant, but reversed to the extent that the unconstitutionality was limited solely to Appellant — that the GPS monitoring program was unconstitutional for anyone in Appellant’s position.
News and Related Materials
- Virginian-Pilot: Supreme Court narrows lifetime GPS tracking of sex offenders