Antoine Jones, who was the owner of a nightclub in the District of Columbia called “Levels,” was convicted of conspiracy to distribute and possession with the intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base. Jones’s conviction was based in part on the use of a GPS tracking device attached to a Jeep driven by Jones. The GPS tracking device was used by law enforcement to track Jones’s movements twenty-four hours a day over a twenty-eight day period.8 Jones argued that his conviction should be overturned because the police violated his Fourth Amendment rights by tracking him without a warrant.9 Specifically, Jones argued that the use of the GPS tracking device violated his “reasonable expectation of privacy” and was therefore a search under the Fourth Amendment. The D.C. Circuit Court, in an opinion written by Judge Douglas Ginsburg and joined by Judges Tatel and Griffith, decided that the government’s warrantless use of a GPS tracking device to track Jones’s every movement for a four-week period violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and introduced a new theory of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence—the “mosaic theory.”
In this regard, this Article will discuss the mosaic theory and the issues raised regarding its viability in resolving Fourth Amendment privacy concerns, particularly concerns raised over one’s public movements from place to place in the wake of advanced surveillance and monitoring technology. Additionally, this Article will discuss how application of the mosaic theory, despite its flaws, may provide a balancing effect between the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment and technological advances that continually blur the line between what is private and what is public, skewing the scope and meaning of the Fourth Amendment. To address these issues, this Article is divided into three parts. Part II of this Article focuses on how advances in technology have recurrently exerted pressure on the Fourth Amendment, eroding practical limitations and creating a ridged line between that which is private and that which is public. Part III discusses the mosaic theory, its application in Maynard and Jones, and the issues raised with respect to its possible future application in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. Finally, Part IV argues that despite all of the concerns and issues raised with respect to the future application of the mosaic theory, the mosaic theory offers a unique opportunity for the Court to reestablish equilibrium among the competing values of privacy and surveillance, fashioning what might be called a public right of privacy.
Jace C. Gatewood,
District of Columbia Jones and the Mosaic Theory—In Search of a Public Right of Privacy: The Equilibrium Effect of the Mosaic Theory,
92 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol92/iss3/3