By Emery P. Dalesio, AP . . . North Carolina’s Supreme Court is re-evaluating whether forcing sex offenders to be perpetually tracked by GPS-linked devices, sometimes for the rest of their lives, is justified or a Constitution-violating unreasonable search.
The state’s highest court next month takes up the case of repeat sex offender Torrey Grady. It comes three years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his case that mandating GPS ankle monitors for ex-cons is a serious privacy concern.
“There’s different possible outcomes of the case. One is that it’s never reasonable at all. Another is that it’s reasonable, maybe while the person is still on post-release supervision” for five years after prison release, said James Markham, a professor who focuses on criminal law at the University of North Carolina’s School of Government. “Another possibility is that it’s reasonable for the rest of their life.”
Grady took his case to the nation’s top court arguing that having his movements forever monitored violated his constitutional protection against unreasonable searches. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that attaching a device to a person’s body in order to track their movements qualifies as a “search” and a question of constitutional rights. But the decision left it up to states to decide whether imposed monitoring is reasonable, and for how long.
States are still at work answering that question, with Michigan and Wisconsin among the handful that have considered whether long-term electronic monitoring’s public benefit outweighs the privacy rights of the sex offender. Both decided it constituted a reasonable search. Delaware’s Supreme Court last year rejected a challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union to a law requiring GPS monitoring of certain sex offenders complained the ankle bracelets were embarrassing, sometimes painful and an invasion of privacy.
North Carolina’s Supreme Court will consider Grady’s case on Dec. 3 as well as a second challenging the GPS tracking ordered for Darren Gentle. The combination would give the justices “an opportunity to compare and contrast those different situations,” Markham said.