FBI Turns Off About 3,000 GPS Devices Following Supreme Court Ruling

from the why-not-just-get-a-warrant? dept

Back in January, we wrote about a quite limited ruling by the Supreme Court in the Jones case, which said that placing a GPS device on a car represented a search and was trespassing. Where the court held back was in discussing the reasonableness of the search, and whether or not it was actually constitutional to do so without a warrant. Some expect that a future case might rule that those searches are reasonable and don't need a warrant, but apparently the FBI isn't taking any chances. It's supposedly shut down 3,000 such devices -- and is now having trouble retrieving many of them since it doesn't know where they are (it's apparently asked courts to allow it to turn the devices on solely for the sake of retrieving them). Of course, this raises a bigger question that isn't answered: why didn't the FBI just get a warrant to use those devices in the first place? If it had done that, then there wouldn't be any issue to deal with here at all... It seems that the only reason not to get a warrant is because they're conducting fishing trips, rather than targeting those where there's probable cause.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 2:41pm

    Wet keyboard LOL

    "It's(sic) supposedly shut down 3,000 such devices -- and is now having trouble retrieving many of them since it doesn't know where they are..."
    Oh great, you made me snort soda out my nose and now my keyboard is covered...

     

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  2.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 2:45pm

    Re: Wet keyboard LOL

    (please ignore the "(sic)" in the previous post, thank you)

     

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  3.  
    icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 2:47pm

    Trust us... we turned them off... really, see.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 2:49pm

    Re: Re: Wet keyboard LOL

    Your failed sic made me laugh more than that line did. (Sorry.)

     

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  5.  
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    velox (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 2:55pm

    @FBI: Need your devices back? Just get a warrant to use them properly.

    If the FBI is so worried about losing it's devices, why don't they just get warrants to cover their GPS tracking activities so they can start using the devices again.
    After all, they must have been using those devices for a good reason. They were tracking some real bad guys who were a menace to society... right? They weren't just frivolously wasting taxpayer dollars, devoting manpower and equipment to track people who don't really need to be tracked. Right???

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 2:56pm

    Here's a tip for the FBI (and other law enforcement for that matter)...

    If you care about keeping something don't leave it in someone else's possession where it doesn't belong. You don't have a right to get it back. Remember, possession is 9/10ths of the law?

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Glen, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 3:01pm

    If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it's yours forever. If it doesn't, then it was never meant to be.

     

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  8.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 3:21pm

    I'm going to laugh like Laharl from Disgaea now...

    "HAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

     

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  9.  
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    Chris-Mouse (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 3:22pm

    Re: @FBI: Need your devices back? Just get a warrant to use them properly.

    Of course, since the FBI knows which vehicles it attached the devices to, it could always simply contact the vehicle owner and ask for permission to recover the devices without needing to involve the courts at all.

     

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  10.  
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    Suja (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 3:26pm

    These guys are a joke.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 3:50pm

    Re: Re: @FBI: Need your devices back? Just get a warrant to use them properly.

    Oh yeah I can see THAT working out REALLY WELL. I cam imagine 3000 calls to attorneys happening to file lawsuits against the FBI for Constitutonal rights violations that the FBI would have just admitted to by making that call which fully supported by the precedent set by the January court ruling. They are pretty dumb but not THAT dumb. Well maybe...

     

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  12.  
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    Thomas (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 4:27pm

    Warrants???

    When does the FBI or any of the other government spook agencies even pay attention to such minor things as warrants? The FBI has become America's version of the Gestapo, but without the swastikas.

    And how could the FBI prove the devices belonged to them? Do they have "property of the US government" on them? What if they were stolen? Does someone go to jail for theft of property? bah

     

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  13.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 4:33pm

    Re: Re: @FBI: Need your devices back? Just get a warrant to use them properly.

    If I got a call like that, I'd remove the device from my car and keep it. I'm sure it could be repurposed to do something fun.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 4:40pm

    Re:

    If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, it's yours. If it doesn't, hunt it down and kill it! ;)

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 4:43pm

    Like sticking it to the FBI agents car? I mean, you would be returning their property after all.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 4:54pm

    Re: Here's a tip for the FBI (and other law enforcement for that matter)...

    Yes, but the government would like the courts to believe they can divide by zero.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 4:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: @FBI: Need your devices back? Just get a warrant to use them properly.

    I think it would be hilarious to pack it up and ship it to some random country, make them think whoever they were trying to trace was heading out of the county.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 5:04pm

    It seems that the only reason not to get a warrant is because they're conducting fishing trips, rather than targeting those where there's probable cause.

    Only reason? Maybe they don't want to devote the internal lawyers, agents and DoJ's time to file for a warrant when none was needed?

    Naw, that'd be inconsistent with the Techdirt narrative. Sorry.

     

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  19.  
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    letherial (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 5:07pm

    Re: Here's a tip for the FBI (and other law enforcement for that matter)...

    "don't leave it in someone else's possession"

    It should be noted they didnt just leave it, like i leave a lighter at a friends house...they hid it, underneath a car..lmao.

    On the plus side, if you happen to think the FBI might want to follow you, check under your car; if its there, ebay FTW.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 5:21pm

    Re:

    Because if it's not worth the trouble of going though the proper channels, then it's not worth doing in the first place.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 5:23pm

    Re:

    So what is your narrative?

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 5:28pm

    Re: Wet keyboard LOL

    Given that you appear to be a regular here, and this can't be the first time you've read something that funny, I would hope you keep at least one spare around for just that sort of occurrence.

     

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  23.  
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    velox (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 5:45pm

    Re:

    "Maybe they don't want to devote the internal lawyers, agents and DoJ's time to file for a warrant when none was needed? "
    Read the 4th Amendment buddy...and if that isn't clear to you, then read the SCOTUS decision. The SCOTUS decision said using GPS in this fashion is a search, hence a warrant is required.
    **GPS tracking didn't just become a search a few weeks ago when the SCOTUS confirmed this observation. It always was a search, and a proper warrant has always been necessary.**
    Perhaps this is hard to understand because your narrative is: "Everybody's stealing something so we need to spy on everyone all the time." [Still dreaming of that erstwhile SOPA deep packet inspection clause perhaps?]

    The FBI has just been practicing the time honored method of: "Proceed until apprehended. If caught, apologize and go to plan B."

     

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  24.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 6:09pm

    Re:

    Only reason? Maybe they don't want to devote the internal lawyers, agents and DoJ's time to file for a warrant when none was needed?

    So you're okay with them cutting corners and ignoring the constitution? And you don't see how that's likely to be abused?

    Holy crap. Please get out of my country.

     

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  25.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 6:19pm

    Re: Re:

    Well, to be fair, they used to think the Constitution did not require them to get a warrant. (Still doesn't necessarily. There are many cases where a search can be made without a warrant.) So if you think what you are doing is within the bounds of the 4th Amendment and that no warrant is needed, it would be a waste to spend resources on getting a warrant.

    Of course, that is part of the problem. The culture in law enforcement should be to seek judicial review whenever there is a grey area rather than only doing so when you are sure it is absolutely necessary.

    I'm just saying, it's not necessarily all nefarious.

     

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  26.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 6:23pm

    Re: Re:

    Well, as much as I am suspicious of law enforcement, I don't think they actually thought this was illegal. The reasoning in Jones is fairly novel (in modern 4th Amendment jurisprudence) and so I would forgive an FBI agent who thought that this is no different than beepers which SCOTUS had said was not a search.

    So they thought they were going through the proper channels. The real problem as I see it is that people in law enforcement are a bit too eager to believe that they can do things which makes everyone else raise an eyebrow.

     

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  27.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 6:48pm

    Other than the FBI's continued violation(s) of the US Constitution just how, exactly, do you misplace a GPS that's supposed to call home and tell you where it is?

    The humour that can be mined from this is huge!

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 8:10pm

    Re: Re: Here's a tip for the FBI (and other law enforcement for that matter)...

    Yeah they do live in imaginary land don't they?

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 8:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: @FBI: Need your devices back? Just get a warrant to use them properly.

    Or attach it to some other public official's car. Lots of fun you could have with that.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 8:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: @FBI: Need your devices back? Just get a warrant to use them properly.

    This reminds me of the article a few days ago about the lady who used found the FBI had followed her. I think I would first have to drive around to some funny random places just to make them go "Huh?"

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 9:14pm

    Re: Re:

    Holy crap. Please get out of my country.

    Your country Chubby? Please don't make me laugh.

    ignoring the constitution

    "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

    Who was searched? Who was seized? Do the police need a warrant to follow me walking down the sidewalk to see where I go? Can they follow my car without a warrant? Why is following me electronically any different? Are you suggesting that my car is my "effects". And if following me on foot or in another car without a warrant is not unlawful, does following me electronically rise to the level of "unreasonable"? I haven't read the decision yet but absent a clear determination from the court, I don't see how this is another sinister plot that you've uncovered here. Better loosen the brim on your tinfoil hat Masnick, it's cutting off the circulation to your pea brain.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    The Moondoggie, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 9:15pm

    FBI Fails... Again.

    *sigh*

    Well, as usual. Someone from FBI's I.T. department will be fired for this.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 9:16pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Heretic........

     

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  34.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 9:31pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    pea brain.

    Just a tip. When calling someone a "pea brain," you might not want to do that to the person who ran circles around you and made you look silly on your last big lobbying campaign.

    Remember when you introduced legislation that you insisted was a slam dunk and continually taunted over how you were going to pass it easily... and then you flopped like a dying fish? Yeah. Good times.

    Just saying, if I'm a "pea brain" but made you look so ridiculous earlier this year, what's that say about you? I'm fine with being a pea brain if you're the "best" of what I have to deal with in opposition.

     

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

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 10:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    you might not want to do that to the person who ran circles around you and made you look silly on your last big lobbying campaign.

    I see. So YOU are now taking the credit? Figures. The contrived self-importance certainly suits you. As you know, that was but a skirmish in a large campaign, albeit an important one. It was no Dien Bien Phu, and you are certainly no General Giap, more like a hapless Gomer Pyle.

    I'd say overall, your side's done nothing but cede ground since. With the existing enforcement tools, private agreements between corporations, international treaties and US control over key internet architecture the opportunity exists to obtain the same result in other ways. Actually, I think your side would have been happier with their lot under the final, negotiated version of SOPA than the extra-legislative solutions that will become increasingly apparent. We'll have to see. For now, enjoy basking in the reflected glory of those who were actually doing the heavy lifting. One day you'll wake up to the fact that you were a mere hanger-on, not the architect.

     

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  36.  
    icon
    BeeAitch (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 11:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "I see. So YOU are now taking the credit? Figures. The contrived self-importance certainly suits you. As you know, that was but a skirmish in a large campaign, albeit an important one. It was no Dien Bien Phu, and you are certainly no General Giap, more like a hapless Gomer Pyle."

    Ad Hominem, *snore*.

    "I'd say overall, your side's done nothing but cede ground since."

    Thanks for your (ignorant) opinion. The death of SOPA/PIPA would like to say : HAI!

    "With the existing enforcement tools, private agreements between corporations, international treaties and US control over key internet architecture the opportunity exists to obtain the same result in other ways."

    So, It's OK if large corporations buy legislation. Glad to know that you're OK with the (fucked up) status quo.

    And you're saying we already have the appropriate laws in place to deal with this, we don't need any more?
    Glad to see you realize this: welcome to our side.

    "Actually, I think your side would have been happier with their lot under the final, negotiated version of SOPA than the extra-legislative solutions that will become increasingly apparent."

    By "extra-legislative" you mean "outside of the Constitution" right?
    If not, please explain.

    "One day you'll wake up to the fact that you were a mere hanger-on, not the architect."

    This "architect" you speak of - is it the very people who built the internet? The ones who will ALWAYS be one step ahead of you (or anyone like you), who thinks that they can conform the 'net to their will?

    If so, the biggest surprise awaits you! ;)

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 5:02am

    Maybe they should have a talk with their banker buddies about how to get a bunch of signatures in a hurry.

     

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  38.  
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    Machin Shin (profile), Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 5:29am

    Re:

    Ok, so your saying because they thought they could get away with it without doing the proper work it was ok?

    If they really were tracking such horrible people and were simply taking a shortcut in the process then they would have no problem finding the devices. All they need to do is get a warrant to turn it back on. That should be easy now that they have the data they gathered before they turned it off.

    Oh, wait, that would mean they had to be using them on actually criminals not just NORMAL CITIZENS caught in a fishing trip.

     

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  39.  
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    Machin Shin (profile), Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 5:35am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Thing with doing things like this in a gray area is you should only go into gray areas with very good reasons. Obviously they did not have a good reason for each of these 3,000 cases.

    It is one thing to have your FBI agent have strong reasons to suspect criminal activity and choose to use GPS to help them track a suspect. It is quite different to toss out 3,000 devices to see what you can maybe find.

    If they had not tried to go fishing with the things they never would have had a problem because each case they used it in they would be able to show probable cause justifying their search.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    no, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 6:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Wet keyboard LOL

    Confused. Why was the sic incorrect? Trying to enhance my grammar.

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 6:23am

    Re:

    when none was needed

    Are you seriously contending that there are legitimate instances when a warrant isn't necessary?

    I don't want to live in your country. I'd rather live in mine where law enforcement needs a warrant to take a leak.

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 7:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Obviously they did not have a good reason for each of these 3,000 cases.

    Citation needed.

    Do you think they picked names out of a hat?

     

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  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 7:45am

    Re: Re:

    Are you seriously contending that there are legitimate instances when a warrant isn't necessary?

    Sure. A cop stops a shady character's car for a traffic violation after leaving a neighborhood known for drug trafficking. Cop gets drug sniffing dog out of the back of the patrol car. Dog alerts and establishes probable cause for warrantless search.

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 8:16am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Doesn't work that way. They have to get PERMISSION to search the car on the scene. If you refuse to give the permission, they then arrest you on suspicion of the crime, impound the car, get the warrent, THEN do their search while it's still in their custody.

     

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  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 8:35am

    Re: Here's a tip for the FBI (and other law enforcement for that matter)...

    OMG! Possession is 9/10ths of the law. Do you know what that means? Let me help you out, it doesn't mean if you possess something then it is 9 tenths yours. It means that nine out of ten laws are written in regards to possessions. If something isn't yours then it isn't yours.

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    no, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 8:46am

    Re: Re: Re:

    However, many police stations have admitted to training dogs to give false positive alerts so that they can search whenever they please. Hence why this tactic should not be allowed.

     

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  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 9:18am

    Re: Re: Here's a tip for the FBI (and other law enforcement for that matter)...

    I meant that if I have it in my possession they have only a 10% chance of getting it back if that much.

     

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  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 9:31am

    Re: Re: Here's a tip for the FBI (and other law enforcement for that matter)...

    No it doesn't. It means that you have a much more difficult time proving that property is rightfully yours if you don't have it in your possession.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Possession_is_nine-tenths_of_the_law

     

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  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 10:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Doesn't work that way. They have to get PERMISSION to search the car on the scene. If you refuse to give the permission, they then arrest you on suspicion of the crime, impound the car, get the warrent, THEN do their search while it's still in their custody.

    You need to pirate a few seasons of "COPS" to see how it works. That is not how it happens at all. The motorist is detained while the dog is brought out. If the dog alerts, then the search begins. If contraband is discovered, then he's arrested.

     

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  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 10:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That's all well and good but the question was:

    "Are you seriously contending that there are legitimate instances when a warrant isn't necessary?"

    The answer is yes, and in far more instances than the one I cited. I was reminded of this when I saw a cop and his black lab working a traffic stop of an Escalade the other day. Fact is it is perfectly legal. I don't know about your claims. Do you have a citation?

     

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  51.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 10:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Apparently you aren't familiar with editing.

     

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  52.  
    icon
    Chargone (profile), Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 11:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Wet keyboard LOL

    also, what does that even Stand for? i've never figured it out.

    (on a role play focused forum i frequent it stands for 'secret in character', that is, from a narrative and 'making the game run properly' stand point the reader/player needs to know it, but from a game stand point none of the other Characters are aware of it. ... somehow i don't think that's what it's being used for here (that's usually also in all caps) :D)

     

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  53.  
    icon
    Chargone (profile), Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 11:04am

    Re:

    ... I don't think these guys are very smart, dood.

     

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  54.  
    icon
    Chargone (profile), Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 11:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    given evidence of their general behavior, this would not surprise me, particularly.

     

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  55.  
    icon
    PrometheeFeu (profile), Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 2:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    As much as it is possible (and even plausible) that they went on fishing expeditions, I'm betting those GPS devices are expensive to acquire, maintain, install and then monitor, so I'm hesitant to say that FBI agents dipped into their budget willy-nilly. No impossible, but I'm willing to grant them some benefit of the doubt.

     

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  56.  
    identicon
    The Dragons Are Here, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 7:41am

    FBI Can' Get Them Back

    I suggest the FBI just send a polite letter to the owners of the cars & ask them nicely to return their "lost" property. I' m SURE the people under illegal surveillance would be HAPPY to return the devices! Aren't you? ;)

     

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  57.  
    identicon
    The Dragons Are Here, Mar 7th, 2012 @ 7:41am

    FBI Can' Get Them Back

    I suggest the FBI just send a polite letter to the owners of the cars & ask them nicely to return their "lost" property. I' m SURE the people under illegal surveillance would be HAPPY to return the devices! Aren't you? ;)

     

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

  58.  
    identicon
    MCAST71907@AOL.COM, May 25th, 2012 @ 7:57pm

    BUSINESS AS USUALLY

    WHO IS GOING TO MAKE SURE THEY SHUT THESE DEVICES DOWN!! I PROMISE YOU WE SHUT THEM DOWN? IWILL JUST TAKE YOUR WORD FOR IT

     

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


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