5 1 discussion employing reconnaissance

Describe a law-enforcement scenario in which you must employ reconnaissance and reconnaissance equipment. What are the legalities that surround such employment?

Library Article: Old-School Analysis of New-School Technology- Supreme Court Prohibits Warrantless GPS Tracking

This article provides a great summary of the case, as well as implications for defense counsel and law enforcement. This resource supports the discussion and Milestone Three.

PDF: Case Note: US v. Jones

Review this resource, which provides information about the United States v. Jones and outlines information about GPS installation and monitoring. This resource supports the discussion and Milestone Three.

In responding to your peers, identify if there are any warrants or other legal approvals needed for employment of the reconnaissance plan and the reconnaissance equipment.

Peer post one

The reasons for reconnaissance use by law enforcement to me is more or less for the same reasons we use it in the military. To gain an advantage over the “enemy” by knowing as much as we can about our target and their capabilities to stack the deck in our favor during the execution of the operation. For law enforcement, the use of reconnaissance is required when the adversary poses an increased risk to officers, such as with cartels, gangs or against ex military personnel that have joined the criminal society.

A scenario where reconnaissance and reconnaissance equipment must be employed would be against a gang such as MS-13. This is due to the increased risk to officers. These individuals are almost always armed, are known to have killed someone just to be part of the gang and are generally more trained and brutal in weapons use and their methods. To mitigate the risk to officers during a police raid, a reconnaissance team with their equipment would recon the target to gain as much knowledge of the structures, numbers of personnel, weapons present and any other intelligence requirements requested by the commander. Without the information from reconnaissance, you could possibly be sending in officers against a gang using automatic rifles and explosives where planning for this situation was lacking. Basically going into a situation blind.

The legalities for reconnaissance mostly depend on the equipment used and the method they are used. For the scenario above, the type of requests, such as a title III would definitely be used. All of the requirements of a title III to be requested and approved would be met in the scenario against MS-13. “The affidavit should explain specifically why other normally utilized investigative techniques, such as physical surveillance or the use of informants and undercover agents, are inadequate in the particular case.” (2018) It is next to impossible to infiltrate MS-13 as their initiation is to kill someone so undercover agents would be useless. This gang is also known for being able to discover stake outs and other surveillance methods used by police. The reason for wanting audio during this reconnaissance is to hear any important information such as if more gang members are showing up at a certain time or if a shipment is coming at a certain time. This is to make sure that there are no surprises for the officers conducting the raid such as a van full of armed gang members showing up half way through the raid that no one was expecting.



29. Electronic Surveillance-Title III Affidavits. (2018, September 19). Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/jm/criminal-resource-manual-29-electronic-surveillance-title-iii-affidavits

Peer post 2

I feel the need to discuss United States v. Jones because, while I agree with the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision to overturn Jones’ conviction, but I do not agree with their rationale.

Officers obtained a warrant from the Federal District Court in D.C. to place a GPS on the vehicle registered to Jones’ wife, but one that he used exclusively. The warrant authorized the installation within D.C. and had a ten-day lifespan. The officers waited until the vehicle was parked in a public place in Maryland and they didn’t install the GPS until day eleven, one day past the warrant’s expiration date (Legal Information Institute (LLI), 2019). This is the issue that should have brought up in court, not a violation of Jones’ Forth Amendment rights. The officers were outside of the warrant’s jurisdiction and the validity of the warrant expired. If the officers knew or even suspected that they were going to need more time to install the GPS device, they should have gotten an extension of the warrant.

While it’s not a common occurrence, extensions are granted. In 2016, the D.C. Circuit Court received 6,050 warrant extension requests. They only granted 25 of those requests (less than 1%), but they did grant extensions (Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO), 2016). This, however, was not the rational of the D.C. District Court. They ruled that the use of such a device violate Mr. Jones’ Fourth Amendment rights:

“The Fourth Amendment protects the ‘right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.’ Here, the Government’s physical intrusion on an “effect” for the purpose of obtaining information constitutes a “search.” (LLI, 2019).

Just as disturbing as the ruling is, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it, ruling that because the unit didn’t “interfere with the defendant’s ability to possess or use the vehicle, there was no search. As for the search aspect, the Court ruled the “when the government ‘physically occupies private property for the purpose of obtaining information,’ a search of constitutional significance has occurred.” They further adjudicated that, “By attaching the device to the Jeep, officers encroached on a protected area” (LLI, 2019). Finally, even though it went to trial and Jones was convicted, his appeal should have been based on the facts that the warrant was for the D.C. area, they installed it in Maryland, and had a ten-day timeframe, it was installed on day eleven, not on Fourth Amendment issues.

I could support the court’s overturning his conviction, based on those issues. To say that his Fourth Amendment rights, particularly unreasonable searches, that is ridiculous. The word search is defined as, “To look into or over carefully or thoroughly in an effort to find or discover something” (Merriam-Webster, 2019). How does a GPS do that? All a GPS does is give the location of a person is and the history of his travels during the day. Such a thing can be accomplished by following a person around in a car. That brings me to my second problem with this ruling. Not only is it a ridiculous ruling but it’s a perilous one, as well. How many convicts have successfully appealed their conviction or are going to appeal their conviction because of this ruling? How long, and this is not too much of a stretch, but how long before it is argued that because of the United States v, Jones ruling that a GPS device reveals too much private information about a person’s daily activities, thereby violating a person’s Fourth Amendment rights, that visual surveillance and reconnaissance without a warrant is also a Fourth Amendment violation?

I don’t think, at least I hope, that this will happen, but I wouldn’t be at all surprise if an attorney tries to argue this using United States v. Jones. A GPS is not a violation of the Forth Amendment; nothing was searched. All a GPS does is make surveillance and reconnaissance of a person easier, allowing the police to use their time more efficiently.


Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO). (2016). Report of the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts on Applications for Delayed-Notice Search Warrants and Extensions. Retrieved fromhttps://www.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/2016_delayed_notice_search_warrant_report_0.pdf

Legal Information Institute (LLI). (2019). United States v. Jones. Retrieved fromhttps://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/10-1259

Merriam-Webster. (2019). Definition of search. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/search

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