Another Court Ruling on GPS Tracking without Warrant

Two years ago I blogged about a very chilling precedent from an upstate New York federal judge who ruled that police can secretly attach Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to a suspect’s vehicle without a warrant, stating that suspects had “no expectation of privacy in the whereabouts of his vehicle on a public roadway.” Seems another federal judge agrees, expanding this dangerous precedent.

The 7th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled against a defendant who claimed that the surreptitious placement of a GPS tracking device amounted to an unconstitutional search. From the court’s decision:

The police had not obtained a warrant authorizing them to place the GPS tracker on the defendant’s car. The district judge, however, found that they had had a reasonable suspicion that the defendant was engaged in criminal activity, and she ruled that reasonable suspicion was all they needed for a lawful search, although she added that they had had probable cause as well. The defendant argues that they needed not only probable cause to believe that the search would turn up contraband or evidence of crime, but also a warrant. The government argues that they needed nothing because there was no search or seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

So while the fourth amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizure, the court ruled that the placement of a GPS tracking device without the suspect’s knowledge does not qualify as a search of his car. The court equated GPS tracking to police physically following a car, or monitoring safety cameras to follow a car, neither of which amounts to illegal search and seizure. I completely disagree: see my various arguments on the issue here, and my article on the topic here.

[via GPS Tracking Systems blog]

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