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Police use GPS to track suspects despite murky law

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  • Police use GPS to track suspects despite murky law

    Pretty cool idea...

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090525/.../us_gps_police

    Police use GPS to track suspects despite murky law

    MADISON, Wis. – Investigators were tipped that habitual criminal Bernardo Garcia was back to making and dealing methamphetamine in 2005 but they needed more evidence to nail him.

    So they secretly installed a GPS to his borrowed Ford Tempo. The technology showed Garcia often drove to land in northwestern Wisconsin, where investigators found a stash of meth-making equipment.

    Garcia, who once bragged he could make meth across from a police station without getting caught, drove to the scene while investigators were there. He was arrested, convicted and sent to prison.

    Across the nation, investigators are using GPS to catch drug dealers, burglars, stalkers and other criminals. Police say the devices, which rely on satellites to determine locations, are similar to trailing a suspect with officers but more effective.

    "It's been a very good investigative tool," said Craig Klyve of the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation, whose agents install GPS on cars up to 75 times a year. "The technology allows you to track and maintain a history of movements of a vehicle over a period of time in a way that your surveillance doesn't get burned and is much less manpower-intensive. It's a way to work smarter."

    Privacy advocates and criminal defense lawyers beg to differ. They say the technology goes beyond surveillance and could be used to create a detailed, around-the-clock profile of one's movements. Because the trackers are so affordable, they view them as a privacy threat that could reveal one's political, religious and personal associations to law enforcement.

    Courts are now grappling with how to balance privacy rights against an investigative technique hailed by state and local police, the Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI.

    "We're seeing more and more cases," said Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director at the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation. "The law is struggling to understand the way in which these kinds of sophisticated tracking technologies change the calculus for what is private and what is an overly invasive technique."

    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1983 that drivers on public streets do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy and police could place radio "beepers" in cars without warrants. Whether courts will treat GPS differently remains unclear.

    Earlier this month, New York's highest court ruled 4-3 that police must obtain search warrants before they can secretly attach devices to vehicles.

    But the week before, a Wisconsin appeals court ruled GPS tracking did not involve a search or seizure under the Fourth Amendment so a warrant was unnecessary. The court warned "police are seemingly free to secretly track anyone's public movements with a GPS device" and called for a state law to prevent abuse.

    Some state lawmakers responded by drafting a bill that would require police to obtain warrants first.

    "I don't want the government to be able to track and monitor people wherever they go," said Rep. Marlin Schneider, a Democrat. "One of our great freedoms in this country is our right to travel and that's undermined if we're under constant surveillance."

    The federal appeals court in Chicago in 2007 approved the warrantless GPS tracking of Garcia, now 35.

    Judge Richard Posner wrote police had ample reason to suspect Garcia of crimes — but acknowledged the technology could one day be used for massive police surveillance. A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., will rule in a similar case soon involving a drug dealer busted with the help of GPS.

    Klyve said his agency does not get a warrant before installing the devices in most cases, when vehicles are parked in public places. He said agents will obtain warrants if installation is done on private property or requires opening a car hood or trunk.

    Some devices, such as the one that helped nab Garcia, must be retrieved and have the tracking information downloaded to a computer.

    Others allow their whereabouts to be downloaded by cell phone for real-time tracking or send out alerts when entering targeted areas. Klyve said those techniques have allowed police to catch serial burglars and arsonists in the act.

    A company called StarChase LLC is even working with the Los Angeles Police Department and others to test technology in which squad cars shoot miniature GPS tags onto passing vehicles. The GPS sends real-time information to headquarters, where dispatchers could send officers to catch suspects and set up roadblocks. The goal would be to reduce the danger associated with chases.

    As the technology quickly advances, privacy advocates worry the law is not catching up. Bruce Rosen, a Madison defense lawyer who has represented suspects tracked by GPS, said the public has no idea how police are using the technology if warrants are not required.

    "Where no paperwork is being created and people are free to do this, I think it's going to have very bad consequences," he said. "These kinds of activities have to be subject to review, scrutiny and accountability."

    But his firm has learned a benefit: the power to prove innocence. The firm represented a man suspected of stalking his ex-wife and beating her. A GPS secretly installed on his vehicle showed he was not at the scene at the time of the alleged beating and the case was dismissed.

    "I like the technology because it has the ability to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent. Other than DNA, I don't know anything that does it quite as well," said David Schumann, a Janesville lawyer who runs a blog on legal issues related to GPS evidence. "And unlike DNA, it will save tons and tons of taxpayer money and police time."

    And mishaps occur.

    Agents try to surreptitiously install the devices but have been caught by surprised suspects, Klyve said. In one case, a driver got into an accident, found the GPS and threw it into Lake Michigan. In another, a car equipped with the device was crushed.
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  • #2
    Some state lawmakers responded by drafting a bill that would require police to obtain warrants first.

    "I don't want the government to be able to track and monitor people wherever they go," said Rep. Marlin Schneider, a Democrat. "One of our great freedoms in this country is our right to travel and that's undermined if we're under constant surveillance."

    Since when has anyone had the right not to be followed by the police, if suspected of criminal activity? Other than the fact this technology is more cost effective than doing a 24/7, "eyes on" surveillance, how does this differ from using multiple UC officers to follow someone?
    "I'm not fluent in the language of violence, but I know enough to get around in places where it's spoken."

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by pulicords View Post
      Some state lawmakers responded by drafting a bill that would require police to obtain warrants first.

      "I don't want the government to be able to track and monitor people wherever they go," said Rep. Marlin Schneider, a Democrat. "One of our great freedoms in this country is our right to travel and that's undermined if we're under constant surveillance."

      Since when has anyone had the right not to be followed by the police, if suspected of criminal activity? Other than the fact this technology is more cost effective than doing a 24/7, "eyes on" surveillance, how does this differ from using multiple UC officers to follow someone?
      Because you're not attaching a piece of monitoring equipment to a person's PERSONAL property.

      You can physically watch anyone all day long since they'd be driving on public roadways.

      I'm all for police using it... just get a warrant. I don't understand why you wouldn't want to obtain a warrant first. There should be some legal justification for needing to use a GPS.

      Comment


      • #4
        It's kind of a murky, gray area between electronic monitoring devices that require warrants and tailing someone under suspicion which does not. Personally, I plan on slipping one into my son's Jeep as soon as he gets his license. Why?

        Call it a lesson learned after the chaos his older sister caused.

        That said...wouldn't probable cause be sufficient in this case for a LEO do to this?
        If I tell you what I know, I'd have to kill you. Fortunately, I don't know much.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by jannino View Post
          Because you're not attaching a piece of monitoring equipment to a person's PERSONAL property.

          You can physically watch anyone all day long since they'd be driving on public roadways.

          I'm all for police using it... just get a warrant. I don't understand why you wouldn't want to obtain a warrant first. There should be some legal justification for needing to use a GPS.

          Why not a warrant?

          1 Time to install it,
          2 Opportunity to install it.
          3 Warrants require Affidavits which can be viewed at the courthouse by anyone unless sealed. And then even word can get out.

          JMHO
          RKT
          "a band is blowing Dixie double four time You feel alright when you hear the music ring"


          The real deal

          Outshined Pujulesfan Bearcat Chitowndet Sgt Slaughter jthorpe M-11 Lt Borelli L-1Sgt CHP Nikk Smurf Presence1 IcecoldblueyesKimble LADEP ateamer ChiCity R.A.B. Jenners IrishMetal GoldBadge willowdared Monkeybomb PhilipCal pullicords Chit2001 Garbageman Narco CruiserClass Fuzz 10-42Trooper Tex4720 irishlad2nv bajakirch OnThe gurmpyirishmanNYIlliniSgtScott31 CityCopDCcgh6366 FJDave

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          • #6
            Originally posted by RoadKingTrooper View Post
            Why not a warrant?

            1 Time to install it,
            2 Opportunity to install it.
            3 Warrants require Affidavits which can be viewed at the courthouse by anyone unless sealed. And then even word can get out.

            JMHO
            RKT
            Ok, I see your points.

            I think most of the units I've seen are magnetic so time wouldn't be an issue.

            Yea, you may pass up a perfect opportunity but there will be more. If it's that urgent you can resort to plain ol' surveillance.

            I don't know how a wiretap warrant works, but why can't it fall under that same scope? Can they be viewed?

            How about putting them under guidelines that require probable cause or a warrant?

            Allowing the government to place a tracking device on my vehicle with no legal reason doesn't sit well with me. Yes, I know the intended use is for people suspected of crimes, but where are the rules/laws stating that?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by jannino View Post
              Allowing the government to place a tracking device on my vehicle with no legal reason doesn't sit well with me. Yes, I know the intended use is for people suspected of crimes, but where are the rules/laws stating that?
              While I would also be more comfortable if there was a warrant, I don't think lack of a warrant makes it "no legal reason." The officer could suspect a crime and thus have probable cause, making a warrant unnecessary. Most of them are too busy and too professional to do it without probable cause and a good reason to suspect you're doing something wrong.

              But I look at it this way (upon thinking it over): What INFORMATION are they going to gain that is DIFFERENT than the info they'd gain if they were following me? None. The info is EXACTLY the same -- it's just acquired differently. Most people would never know if the cops were following them, and might actually have a BETTER chance finding a GPS tracking placed in their car. Plus, for $40, you can buy the stuff at Radio Shack to effectively jam a GPS signal on your car, rendering that method useless.

              So to me, no biggy.
              If I tell you what I know, I'd have to kill you. Fortunately, I don't know much.

              Comment


              • #8
                Cops have been using technology to track suspects for years. From dripping oil cans to an ice pick in a tailight.

                You are on surveillance and Mr Big shows up. Having waited days or weeks for his arrival, you finally get him identified and learn he is picking up a rental car and leaving for the meet. A warrant could take a couple hours... by then he'll be in the wind. Surveillance assets are thin and stretched to the limit. Should you let him go or slap a radio transmitter on his ride.

                What if it was a kidnapper?

                The problem with expanding existing procedures to make a feel good atmosphere when there is no requirement for a warrant leaves you cutting your throat when you don't need to.

                Had a Police Chief require a CI take a urine test before and after every buy he made. WHY? The guy can buy dope because he is a DOPER. Nuns and Priests rarely come to Narcs offering to make buys.

                If there is no requirement for one why on earth would you apply for a warrant?
                "a band is blowing Dixie double four time You feel alright when you hear the music ring"


                The real deal

                Outshined Pujulesfan Bearcat Chitowndet Sgt Slaughter jthorpe M-11 Lt Borelli L-1Sgt CHP Nikk Smurf Presence1 IcecoldblueyesKimble LADEP ateamer ChiCity R.A.B. Jenners IrishMetal GoldBadge willowdared Monkeybomb PhilipCal pullicords Chit2001 Garbageman Narco CruiserClass Fuzz 10-42Trooper Tex4720 irishlad2nv bajakirch OnThe gurmpyirishmanNYIlliniSgtScott31 CityCopDCcgh6366 FJDave

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by RoadKingTrooper View Post

                  If there is no requirement for one why on earth would you apply for a warrant?
                  I'm stating there should be SOME legal requirement. Either it be probable cause or a warrant.

                  Just not a fan of government being able to plant tracking devices without legal cause. Call me paranoid but I just think of what it could turn into if unchecked.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jannino View Post
                    I'm stating there should be SOME legal requirement. Either it be probable cause or a warrant.

                    Just not a fan of government being able to plant tracking devices without legal cause. Call me paranoid but I just think of what it could turn into if unchecked.
                    Wouldn't there already have to be probable cause?
                    If I tell you what I know, I'd have to kill you. Fortunately, I don't know much.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ISPY4U2 View Post
                      Wouldn't there already have to be probable cause?
                      Not unless there are laws stating probable cause must exist. It must also define probable cause in regard to GPS tracking.

                      I don't know of any case law regarding it either.

                      As of now, I'd assume its use is only governed my department policy... which is not law.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The answer is not so much probable cause as much as "expectation of privacy" That is what any court would look to!

                        Does a motorist have an expectation of privacy in a private conveyance on a public road?

                        First he or she drives a vehicle registered by the state on a roadway maintained by the state in full view of anyone who happens to glance his way, Cops included.

                        Second, the fuel he uses is taxed by the state, records are kept by law of what lodging he uses. Other records (credit card receipts ect) are maintained by third parties of food he consumes,

                        So the expectation of privacy while traveling is far less than what is given to his conveyance, which is less than afforded him in his home and personal effects.
                        "a band is blowing Dixie double four time You feel alright when you hear the music ring"


                        The real deal

                        Outshined Pujulesfan Bearcat Chitowndet Sgt Slaughter jthorpe M-11 Lt Borelli L-1Sgt CHP Nikk Smurf Presence1 IcecoldblueyesKimble LADEP ateamer ChiCity R.A.B. Jenners IrishMetal GoldBadge willowdared Monkeybomb PhilipCal pullicords Chit2001 Garbageman Narco CruiserClass Fuzz 10-42Trooper Tex4720 irishlad2nv bajakirch OnThe gurmpyirishmanNYIlliniSgtScott31 CityCopDCcgh6366 FJDave

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by jannino View Post
                          Because you're not attaching a piece of monitoring equipment to a person's PERSONAL property.

                          You can physically watch anyone all day long since they'd be driving on public roadways.

                          I'm all for police using it... just get a warrant. I don't understand why you wouldn't want to obtain a warrant first. There should be some legal justification for needing to use a GPS.
                          they secretly installed a GPS to his borrowed Ford Tempo. The technology showed Garcia often drove to land in northwestern Wisconsin, where investigators found a stash of meth-making equipment.

                          1) The vehicle wasn't his, it was "borrowed."
                          2) Was there a "search" of the vehicle? (No. Something was merely placed on it, not unlike placing advertisements on the wiperblades or having the license plates placed on the car-as required by state law.)
                          3) Was there a "seizure"? (No. Nothing was seized from the subject of the surveillance. He was free to go wherever and whenever he wished.)
                          4) If there is neither a search or seizure involved, does the court then have jurisdiction to regulate whether or not the police have the right to follow person(s) without sufficient probable cause or even reasonable suspicion to justify their actions? How much evidence is needed to even conduct an investigation, based upon this new standard?
                          "I'm not fluent in the language of violence, but I know enough to get around in places where it's spoken."

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by pulicords View Post
                            they secretly installed a GPS to his borrowed Ford Tempo. The technology showed Garcia often drove to land in northwestern Wisconsin, where investigators found a stash of meth-making equipment.

                            1) The vehicle wasn't his, it was "borrowed."
                            2) Was there a "search" of the vehicle? (No. Something was merely placed on it, not unlike placing advertisements on the wiperblades or having the license plates placed on the car-as required by state law.)
                            3) Was there a "seizure"? (No. Nothing was seized from the subject of the surveillance. He was free to go wherever and whenever he wished.)
                            4) If there is neither a search or seizure involved, does the court then have jurisdiction to regulate whether or not the police have the right to follow person(s) without sufficient probable cause or even reasonable suspicion to justify their actions? How much evidence is needed to even conduct an investigation, based upon this new standard?
                            I was referring to law enforcement using GPS to track people in general....not the specific incident quoted in the thread.

                            With that same logic, why not do away with legal justification for using wiretaps? There is no search or seizure there either.

                            Not having laws governing placing tracking devices on vehicles leaves it wide open for misuse.

                            So police can just put GPS tracking devices on whoever they want? Yes, I'm sure the department wouldn't allow it, but there's no laws in place to protect citizens from misuse.

                            If reasonable suspicion is all that you think is needed, that's fine by me. Let there be a law stating that.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I guess I'm lost

                              Originally posted by jannino View Post
                              I was referring to law enforcement using GPS to track people in general....not the specific incident quoted in the thread.

                              With that same logic, why not do away with legal justification for using wiretaps? There is no search or seizure there either.

                              Not having laws governing placing tracking devices on vehicles leaves it wide open for misuse.

                              So police can just put GPS tracking devices on whoever they want? Yes, I'm sure the department wouldn't allow it, but there's no laws in place to protect citizens from misuse.

                              If reasonable suspicion is all that you think is needed, that's fine by me. Let there be a law stating that.
                              I guess I don't understand your position

                              GPS is just the latest technology. Why would the Cops put it on someone they weren't investigating for a crime?

                              If you have a cellphone, it can be tracked without your knowledge, and not by just the Cops

                              Is your fear one borne by George Orwell's Big Brother form 1984?
                              "a band is blowing Dixie double four time You feel alright when you hear the music ring"


                              The real deal

                              Outshined Pujulesfan Bearcat Chitowndet Sgt Slaughter jthorpe M-11 Lt Borelli L-1Sgt CHP Nikk Smurf Presence1 IcecoldblueyesKimble LADEP ateamer ChiCity R.A.B. Jenners IrishMetal GoldBadge willowdared Monkeybomb PhilipCal pullicords Chit2001 Garbageman Narco CruiserClass Fuzz 10-42Trooper Tex4720 irishlad2nv bajakirch OnThe gurmpyirishmanNYIlliniSgtScott31 CityCopDCcgh6366 FJDave

                              Comment

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