Warrant required for GPS tracking of vehicles, court rules
U.S. used GPS device attached to the van of a suspect in pharmacy thefts to track movements
IDG News Service - A U.S. appeals court has ruled that police must obtain a warrant prior to using a GPS device to track a vehicle, deciding on an unaddressed issue in an earlier Supreme Court order.
The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on Tuesday is considered a victory by privacy groups as a number of courts in the country grapple with the legal and privacy implications of using mobile phone location information and GPS in investigations by law enforcement.
In the case, United States v. Katzin, the government used a GPS device attached to the exterior of the van of Harry Katzin, one of the suspects in the burglaries of several pharmacies, to track his movements and those of his two brothers as they drove from one pharmacy to another. Police eventually arrested them.
A District Court upheld the claim of the Katzin brothers that the government had violated their Fourth Amendment rights by attaching the GPS tracking device without a warrant. The government, which had contended that a warrant was not required for use of the GPS device, appealed the ruling.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Unless there are some very highly specific circumstances, which were not present in the current case, "the police cannot justify a warrantless GPS search with reasonable suspicion alone," the appeals court wrote in its order.
The case is the first in which a federal appeals court has held explicitly that warrants are required for GPS tracking by police, said the American Civil Liberties Union, which was one of the amici curiae in the dispute. Described as "friend of the court," an amicus curiae is a party that is not directly involved in a litigation, but believe they may be impacted or have views on the matter before the court.
The government held that if officers are required to obtain a warrant and have probable cause prior to executing a GPS search, "officers could not use GPS devices to gather information to establish probable cause, which is often the most productive use of such devices," the court observed in its order.
In another case, United States v. Jones, the U.S. Supreme Court held last year that GPS tracking by attaching a device to a vehicle constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment. But the court did not decide on whether warrants were required.
"Among the issues that Jones left open, however, was whether warrantless use of GPS devices would be 'reasonable -- and thus lawful -- under the Fourth Amendment [where] officers ha[ve] reasonable suspicion, and indeed probable cause' to execute such searches," according to the ruling by the court of appeals.
- Why Projects Fail CIOs are expected to deliver more projects that transform business, and do so on time, on budget and with limited resources.
- The New Business Case for Video Conferencing: 7 Real-World Benefits Beyond Cost-Savings This whitepaper provides insight into the value of video conferencing in today's business environment, and how organizations are using visual collaboration to find...
- Gartner Magic Quadrant for Client Management Tools The client management tool market is maturing and evolving to adapt to consumerization, desktop virtualization, and an ongoing need to improve efficiency.
- Audit Ready and Asset Optimized: The Solid Promise of an Intelligent Software Asset Management Solution In this paper Frost & Sullivan examines the benefits of enterprise-grade Software Asset Management solutions, and how these solutions serve as the convergence...
- LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users?
- On-demand webinar: "Mobility Mayhem: Balancing BYOD with Enterprise Security" Check out this on-demand webinar to hear Sophos senior security expert John Shier deep dive into how BYOD impacts your enterprise security strategy... All Legal White Papers | Webcasts