Real-time and Historic Location Surveillance after United States v. Jones: An Administrable, Mildly Mosaic Approach

36 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2013 Last revised: 7 Nov 2015

See all articles by Stephen E. Henderson

Stephen E. Henderson

University of Oklahoma - College of Law

Date Written: January 1, 2013


In United States v. Jones, the government took an extreme position: so far as the federal Constitution is concerned, law enforcement can surreptitiously electronically track the movements of any American over the course of an entire month without cause or restraint. According to the government, whether the surveillance is for good reason, invidious reason, or no reason, the Fourth Amendment is not implicated. Fortunately, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected that position. The Court did not, however, resolve what restriction or restraint the Fourth Amendment places upon location surveillance, reflecting proper judicial restraint in this nuanced and difficult area. Using the newly enacted American Bar Association (ABA) Standards on Law Enforcement Access to Third Party Records, this Article develops a regulatory regime for law enforcement visual surveillance, technologically enhanced location surveillance, and access to historic location records (e.g., cell site data). The proposal handles the administrative difficulties inherent in so-called mosaic approaches via a generally permissive regime regulated through an abuse standard. Ideally, such a proposal would be legislatively enacted with the backdrop of constitutional judicial review, and the Article comments upon the need for constructive dialogue and initiative in that process by the law enforcement community, a view influenced by six years serving as Reporter for the ABA Standards.

Keywords: Fourth Amendment, US v. Jones, GPS tracking, third party doctrine, location tracking, location surveillance, expectation of privacy, search, information privacy, stakeout

JEL Classification: K14, K19

Suggested Citation

Henderson, Stephen E., Real-time and Historic Location Surveillance after United States v. Jones: An Administrable, Mildly Mosaic Approach (January 1, 2013). 103 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 803 (2013), Available at SSRN: or

Stephen E. Henderson (Contact Author)

University of Oklahoma - College of Law ( email )

300 Timberdell Road
Norman, OK 73019
United States
405.325.7127 (Phone)


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