Massachusetts Says Cops Need Warrant To Stick GPS Device On Your Car

from the that-makes-two-states dept

For the past few years, it's become increasingly common for police to put GPS devices on suspects' cars to track where they are. But, that's kicked up a bunch of legal questions concerning whether or not it's legal to do that without a warrant. So far, the courts have not really agreed. Earlier this year, we saw one court (a federal appeals court, 4th circuit) say that police didn't need a warrant, but then, just days later, a court in NY ruled the other way, saying that it was a violation of the 4th Amendment. Now, the state Supreme Court in Massachusetts has weighed in as well, again saying that a warrant is needed to put a GPS device on your car. So that makes NY and Massachusetts as states where police can't randomly stick GPS devices on your car. The other 48 states? Good luck...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    syzygy (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 5:43am

    New Technology, New problems

    I can understand where the police are coming from, but the thought of the police putting GPS devices on any car they want does not seem like a good outcome. If a warrant was not required, what would stop the police from putting GPS devices on every car? Requiring a warrant will prevent abuse and make sure that GPS tracking is only used when they have good reason to follow someone.

    I imagine that this will become a bigger issue as other states start to do similar things, so I expect this to come up again.

     

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  2.  
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    Shawn (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 5:56am

    How else are they going to track us down and force us to get our H1N1 vaccine when martial law is declared?

     

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  3.  
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    Andrew (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 6:22am

    The main argument I think is that the police don't need a warrant to follow you in their car so why should they need a warrant to use a GPS instead of a police officer?

     

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  4.  
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    zaven (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 6:36am

    Re:

    And the argument to that would be...

    Well the police don't need a warrant to hide in a room and listen to a conversation, but they do need a warrant to put a bug in the room to listen in.

    But I'm no lawyer. What do I know.

     

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  5.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 6:41am

    Re:

    "The main argument I think is that the police don't need a warrant to follow you in their car so why should they need a warrant to use a GPS instead of a police officer?"

    Yes, that's probably the argument, but it's a silly one. To properly analogize GPS and following someone, you need to take into account that they are literally invading the integrity of your personal property in placing a physical object on your person or property (assuming they aren't just LoJacking them.

    If you think of it that way, it's akin to them saying, "Well, we could just walk behind you and listen to everything you say, so putting this listening bug on you is no big deal. No, no, gentle citizen, it HAS to up the anus, and yes the only way to put it there is with these rusty pliers."

    Okay, well maybe not that last part....

     

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  6.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 6:42am

    Re:

    It's one thing to follow someone in public, it's another to install a device onto that same car. If I did it I would be charged with vandalism, breaking into said car, stalking, and probably anything else they can shove in my face to make an example out of me (like computer hacking).

    Nah, if the cops have just cause to do that, then they can convince a judge to give them a warrant.

     

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  7.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 6:56am

    Re: Re:

    PS: Random question, if a cop tags my car without a warrant and I find it and remove it, am I breaking a law?

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Howard, Cowering, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 7:00am

    Re: #7 CST

    You're probably interfering with an official investigation, or obstructing a police officer, or some such "if you have nothing to hide, why are you complaining?" legislation.

     

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  9.  
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    Joe, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 7:06am

    Re: Re:

    So what happens when police get predator style cloaking devices. Will that be considered hiding in a room with an audio recorder, or will that be considered being a bug?

     

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  10.  
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    John Doe, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 7:14am

    The law will get changed..

    The law will get changed as soon as a politician's car is tracked. Then said politician will lobby for a change. :)

     

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  11.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 7:28am

    Re: The law will get changed..

    You assume that a cop would be allowed to track a politician's car. Said cop would probably be fired for not doing a proper background check on the person they're tracking.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 7:38am

    What if they attach it to the cars license plate? In some states the plate is state property.

     

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  13.  
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    Comboman (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 7:48am

    Re: Re: The law will get changed..

    Politicians get investigated all the time (remember Eliot Spitzer?), but I'm sure the police get warrants and make sure the paperwork is double-checked.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 8:15am

    I personally say if you have nothing to hide, and the police supect you of something, you have nothing to fear, it's only the criminals that have something to hide after all.

     

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  15.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 8:18am

    Re:

    "I personally say if you have nothing to hide, and the police supect you of something, you have nothing to fear, it's only the criminals that have something to hide after all."

    Must....not....give in....to Godwin's....Law....Must....Resist urge....to point out....stupidity....

     

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  16.  
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    andythecoderman, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 8:57am

    Rule of thumb

    I think the rule of thumb as far as searches and surveillance is that anything that legal for a citizen to do should be legal for police, otherwise the cops should have to get a warrant.

    Sure I can follow someone down the sidewalk and listen to what they say, but if I did so every day for an extended period of time or followed them into their home; I would get thrown in jail for stalking.

     

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  17.  
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    PlagueSD, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 9:18am

    LoJack and OnStar

    If you have either of these systems installed, you can be tracked at ANY time without your knowledge. Also, most cell phones have GPS tech in them. If you really don't want to be tracked, leave your cell phone at home and walk...

     

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  18.  
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    TheStupidOne, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 9:24am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I'll just call the officer a bug and suggest that we squish him with a newspaper.

     

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  19.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 10:04am

    Re: Re: Re:

    The better question would be if you find it and they have a warrant but you remove it, are you breaking the law?

     

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  20.  
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    John Doe, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 10:04am

    Re: LoJack and OnStar

    Yes, but they would have to get a warrant to view your cell phone records.

     

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  21.  
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    zellamayzao, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 10:07am

    Re:

    my father was a police officer for 20 years and I really didnt have much of anything to fear because I was brought up to obey the laws....most of them anyway haha.

    Anyway if you have nothing to hide, you obviously have nothing to fear. Though if they have nothing to convict then they need not be suspecting me either.

    Its an invasion of privacy and I do not appreciate that people take such a apathetic attitudes towards things like that.

     

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  22.  
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    azuravian (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 10:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    How would you know that it was even put on there by the police unless you saw them doing it? Maybe you found a GPS device and thought you were being setup by that TV show Cheaters or something.

     

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  23.  
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    Martin Cohn, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 10:28am

    Federal vs state interpretations.

    It depends on the judicial district, but in Eastern Missouri the rules are:

    1. If you're going hook into the electrical system you need a court order, period.

    2. If the installation takes you into the curtailage of the target (e.g. carport), you need a court order.

    3. Other cases take verbal concurrence of the Assistant US Attorney handling the case. In other words, there must be an active criminal investigation and not a fishing expedition.

    The affidavit for the court order and the warrant are the same format. Granted the bar is slightly higher for a warrant than a court order, but the procedure is the same and there will be a request to seal the warrant until the device is removed.

     

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  24.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 12:49pm

    Re: Re:

    The comment is so naive, I would assume it's a troll. Nobody can be that ignant, right?

    I'ma let you finish now.

     

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  25.  
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    batch, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 1:22pm

    Re:

    Please fall into a deep hole and never emerge. Thanks!

     

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  26.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 3:38pm

    Re:

    I think the main issue is that your car is your property and so placing something in it without your consent is a violation of your property rights.

     

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  27.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 3:52pm

    Re: Re:

    "because I was brought up to obey the laws....most of them anyway haha."

    "Anyway if you have nothing to hide, you obviously have nothing to fear. Though if they have nothing to convict then they need not be suspecting me either."

    That's the point. We all have something to hide. If you think you have broken no laws on any one day, you are probably wrong. Picked up some change off the street recently? Did you report it on your taxes? Did you return the found property to the police station so it could be returned to its owner? And the list goes on.
    Listen to this: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4097602514885833865#
    You'll see what I mean...

     

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  28.  
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    teknosapien (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 4:11pm

    Wonder what happens if

    I find said device and destroy it or do other felonious things with it? Can I be charged with a crime for removing a piece of "my Vehicle" and placing on say a migratory fowl or a black bear or driving over it with a bulldozer?

    I think there is more than the 4th amendment to be considered here placing such a device would mean that your personal property was accessed with out your knowledge. Could this be considered breaking and entering by the police?

    I think there is a lot more at stake here than just the 4th

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 8:51pm

    In Washington State, a warrant is required to attach a GPS tracking device to a car as well. However, the Wa Supremes use the states constitutional right to privacy rather than the 4th amendment.

     

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  30.  
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    Mrten, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 3:42am

    The Netherlands are considering (make that "planning") to make a GPS-device mandatory for *all* cars, to facilitate billing the use of the roads (with the excuse of lowering congestion).

    Why these is no massive uproar against that idea is beyond me.

     

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  31.  
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    zellamayzao, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 6:56am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I am aware I break all kinds of laws everyday. I am rarely under the speed limit when I drive. I dont always put my blinker on 300 feet before I make a turn (law here in Delaware) and sometimes cross the street not in a designated crosswalk.

    If I found a GPS on my car placed there by the police wanting to track my whereabouts they would be sorely disappointed with where I travel to. Work...home....thats about it really. I would be pissed they placed it there with out my permission but that's the whole point of it being there and I know they wouldnt find anything to convict me on any charges other than needing a more exciting life.

    If the law nationwide is that they need a warrant to place some sort of tracking devise on someones car then it would be better because they would have to prove they have reason to believe someone is doing some shady business. But if they are allowed to just willy nilly slap stuff on cars because they want to then we have problems.

    Plus then they would also be able to tack on extra charges to people, for speeding etc, with the gps knowing where they went and how fast they got there taking the ability for people to face their persecutors in a court of law because an electronic device caught them and they dont have much of a personality

     

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  32.  
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    susan s., Dec 7th, 2009 @ 12:27am

    tracking devices and police.

    Does anyone not understand that our rights are slowly being stripped from us? My vehicle is my property. What gives them the right to hide something under it? When my brother is suspect in a non-violent crime do they put a tracker under all the family cars or just his? How would anyone like to be followed around all day? We are not talking about employers who track thier own vehicles. We are talking about some street cop being able to decide whether he has probable cause To tamper with your vehicle without a court order from a judge. Let the judges decide.

     

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  33.  
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    Peter, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 5:22pm

    Track Everyone??

    This would only be the beginning. If the courts permit the police to put tracking devices on cars what's going to stop them in the future puting tracking devices on us without warrants. It seems as the years go by the more freedom we lose.

    If the police should not need a warrant to tag a car, then a stalker can tag his victims car without breaking the law.

    Wisconsin is the only state that does not believe in the Ammendment 4 of our Constitutional rights. Is there even any crimee in Wisconsin? Our Constitution is very important and their are plenty of fiends who would like to abolish it.

     

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  34.  
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    peter, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 5:24pm

    Re:

    Because we have Constitutional Rights. Do you know what that is?

     

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  35.  
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    peter, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 5:30pm

    Re: Re:

    Well according to your reply. We don't even need the Constitution. What were they they thinking when they wrote it. Probably to protect the Criminals?

     

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  36.  
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    Jason, Sep 1st, 2010 @ 11:32pm

    Cops can do whatever they want. When it boils down...it'll be your word against theirs. They can video tape you, audio tape you, place Gps, run any backround report you can think of, stop you, search you, detain you and with a hunch. We are in a country where the crimnals are innocent till proven guilty...and the innocent have to prove they are innocent (if you didn't do anything wrong you don't have to worry if they search your home or do some tests on the side of the road). It's not like crime is going down.....

     

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  37.  
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    lrobbo (profile), May 23rd, 2012 @ 7:36am

    Re:

    This comment rings true, arrogant cops doing what they want accountable to who? Hate the police here in the UK with a passion . . .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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