Police use Warrantless GPS to Track Criminals

Police have a new tool to track criminals, and privacy advocates and criminal defense attorneys are crying foul.

Across the nation, police are attaching GPS devices to suspects’ cars to track their movements and possibly get incriminating evidence against them.

In Madison, Wis., police attached GPS to a car borrowed by a habitual methamphetamine dealer, and discovered he made frequent trips to an area of northwest Wisconsin, according to The Associate Press.

Police found a meth lab there, and were there to arrest him on his next visit.

Whether or not police need a search warrant to attach a GPS device to a suspect’s car is a question of great debate.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1983 that a warrant is not needed to install so-called beeper devices that tracked a suspect’s movements. However, the technological advances of the last two-and-a-half decades allow police to be more evasive in their surveillance.

Earlier this month, the New York Supreme Court ruled that a warrant is necessary to install GPS on a suspect’s vehicle, but just a week before, the Wisconsin courts ruled that GPS tracking was neither search nor seizure, and did not violate Fourth Amendment rights.

A case similar to the Wisconsin arrest is scheduled to be heard in the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.

Privacy advocates warn that a dangerous precedent could be set, as technology often outpaces the legal system.

The Los Angeles Police Department are currently exploring an option that allows cruisers to shoot miniature GPS trackers onto passing cars, according to the AP story.

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