MA: GPS monitoring for probation for a sex offense didn’t serve the stated purpose and was unreasonable

Defendant was on probation for a sex offense, and the trial court ordered he wear a GPS monitor for three years as a method of enforcing an “exclusion zone” for the victim’s sake. However, the victim’s location was unknown, so this was an unreasonable condition of probation and didn’t serve the stated purpose. Commonwealth v. Roderick, 2022 Mass. LEXIS 433 (Sep. 16, 2022):

In Commonwealth v. Feliz, 481 Mass. 689, 690-691, 119 N.E.3d 700 (2019), S.C., 486 Mass. 510, 159 N.E.3d 661 (2020) (Feliz I), we held that global positioning system (GPS) monitoring as a condition of probation constitutes a search under art. 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights and the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as recognized by the United States Supreme Court in Grady v. North Carolina, 575 U.S. 306, 309, 135 S. Ct. 1368, 191 L. Ed. 2d 459 (2015). Consequently, in order for such a condition of probation to be constitutional, the government must establish that its interest in imposing GPS monitoring outweighs the privacy intrusion occasioned by the monitoring. See Feliz I, supra at 701.

This case requires us to determine whether GPS monitoring as a condition of probation is constitutional as applied to the defendant, a first-time offender convicted of rape. The Commonwealth asserts that GPS monitoring will further its interests in enforcing the court-ordered exclusion zone surrounding the victim’s home, deterring the defendant from engaging in criminal activity, and assisting authorities in investigating any future criminal activity by the defendant.

We conclude that the Commonwealth has not established how the imposition of GPS monitoring in this case would further its interest in enforcing the exclusion zone. Although the Commonwealth has demonstrated that GPS monitoring might aid in deterring and investigating possible future criminal activity by the defendant, in the circumstances here, those interests alone do not justify the depth of the intrusion into the defendant’s privacy that GPS monitoring entails. Accordingly, the imposition of GPS monitoring on the defendant as a condition of probation would constitute an unreasonable search in violation of art. 14.

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