Commonwealth v. Roderick, No. SJC-13212 (Mass. 2022)
Nature of Case: Defendant was convicted of rape and sentenced to four years of incarceration followed by three years of probation. As a condition of probation, the judge ordered the defendant to submit to GPS monitoring and imposed a one-half mile exclusion zone around the victim’s residence and place of employment.
A few weeks before his anticipated release from prison, defendant moved to vacate the condition of GPS monitoring pursuant to Commonwealth v. Feliz, on the ground that is constituted an unreasonable search.
In Commonwealth v. Feliz, 481 Mass. 689 (2019), the Massachusetts Supreme Court held that GPS monitoring as a condition of probation constitutes a search under Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights and the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Thus, in order for such a condition to be constitutional, the government must establish that its interest in imposing GPS monitoring outweighs the privacy intrusion caused by the monitoring.
The lower court judge denied defendant’s motion, concluding that the condition of GPS monitoring was reasonable. The defendant timely appealed, and the Massachusetts Supreme Court granted Defendant’s application for direct appellate review.
Holding: The Massachusetts Supreme Court concluded that the imposition of GPS monitoring as a condition of the defendant’s probation constituted an unreasonable search in violation of art. 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, where the Commonwealth’s demonstrated interests in GPS monitoring as an aid in deterrence and in investigating possible future criminal activity by the defendant did not justify the significant intrusion into his expectation of privacy occasioned by GPS monitoring, given that the Commonwealth did not establish at the hearing on the defendant’s motion to remove GPS monitoring as a condition of his probation that the Commonwealth would or could configure in the defendant’s GPS monitoring device an effective exclusion zone around the victim’s residence.