Massachusetts Judges May Not Impose GPS Monitoring Without Justification

gps.jpegIn a recent case, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided that GPS monitoring or similar devices may not be added to a probationer as an additional condition of probation without a violation of probation where there is no material change to the defendant’s circumstances.

In the Massachusetts court, probation is a legal resolution of a case that allows the defendant to be released, without incarceration, on the condition that he complies with certain conditions imposed by the sentencing judge. If, however, the defendant violates any of those conditions of probation, a judge may then revoke his probation and commit that person for up to the maximum sentence on the charge for which he was placed on probation.

Where, however, the defendant on probation has complied with his conditions of probation, a judge is then limited with modifying the terms and conditions of the persons probation [without a violation].

With regard to GPS monitoring that was not originally imposed, without a “material change” in the defendants circumstances such cannot be then imposed, as doing so would be “so punitive as to significantly increase the severity of the original probation.”

In other words, even where there is no violation of probation, the defendant’s conditions may be modified, but the modification may not be ‘drastic’ or ‘severe’ and must be in accordance with the underlying terms that were originally imposed and “consistent with the underlying basis for the modification”.

Additionally, specifically with regard to GPS monitoring, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has acknowledged that GPS monitoring and creating ‘exclusion zone’ restricting the defendant from entering severely on a person’s liberty so significantly that it may only be imposed after a finding of a violation of probation.

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