The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently ruled that certain individuals may be tracked via GPS without their knowledge. The court’s holding was related to a case involving suspected burglary. In this case, a man who was suspected of multiple burglaries was subject to having his car impounded. Once impounded, law enforcement installed a GPS in the vehicle without his knowledge.
Common sense would indicate that such behavior on the part of law enforcement was an illegal search and seizure in violation of the man’s Fourth Amendment rights. However, the court upheld the right of law enforcement to track the man’s movements without his knowledge after they had obtained a warrant to do so. When the GPS tracked the man to a home he was allegedly burglarizing, he was arrested.
The court’s logic provided that the car’s impoundment was reasonable, given the likelihood that the vehicle contained evidence related to the crime. In addition, it supported the GPS installation due to the alleged reasonability of the warrant. However, the court did little to pacify the concerns of individuals convinced that the GPS installation constitutes a Fourth Amendment violation.
As a result, the defendant’s attorney has expressed that he will consider appealing the case to the United States Supreme Court. In the meantime, it is worth warning individuals who may be engaged in suspect activities that law enforcement increasingly relies on technology for tracking individuals they believe are behaving in illegal ways. And for better and for worse, the Wisconsin Supreme Court seems to be sanctioning that use of technology.
Source: Janesville Gazette, “High court OKs cops’ GPS use in burglary case,” Feb. 7, 2013