GPS Evidence Stricken: A Victory for the Fourth Amendment

GPS units are not only handy devices which are, for many, becoming indispensable on the roads, but the technology is increasingly being utilized by law enforcement officials to track suspects, to gather evidence, and to ultimately build cases against criminal defendants.  Advocates of individual civil liberties and opponents of excessive governmental intrusion argue that the surreptitious placement of a GPS device by the police under a private citizen’s automobile runs afoul of the Constitutional protections against unlawful searches and seizures.  Prosecutors, on the other hand, contend that police have the right and option to view individuals operating their vehicles on private roads without a warrant, and the GPS device is merely an extension of such ability.  A defendant’s constitutional challenge to the practice was recently upheld in the Court of Appeals in New York (resulting in a reversal of a conviction, and ultimately a dismissal of criminal charges).  The issue is ripe to be challenged in Connecticut and other jurisdictions across the nation.


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The legal future of this type of “surveillance” – whether utilized by a police department (with or without a warrant), or by a suspicious spouse or private investigator in anticipation of a divorce proceeding – is still unclear, but surely provokes thought and discussion.

H. Daniel Murphy, Esq.

Police GPS Surveillance Raises Legal Questions, D. Freedman, Connecticut Post, June 7, 2009: