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Removing a Police GPS is Not Theft

CrimJustice

The law of searches and seizures is always evolving as technology grows. For those accused of committing a crime, understanding privacy rights can be vital, as evidence obtained against you showing the commission of a crime cannot be used if it was obtained in violation of the constitution’s fourth amendment.

Man Accused of Removing Police GPS

A man in Indiana was thought to be selling illegal drugs. The police wanted to put a GPS on the man’s car, and got a warrant to do just that. They were gathering loads of information on the man’s comings and goings…and then the data stopped coming in.

Police thought that the man must have discovered the GPS tracker and removed it. On that basis, they got a warrant to search the man’s home. When they searched the home, they found the tracking device, as well as more illegal drugs.

Warrant is Challenged

The man challenged the warrant to search his home. To get a warrant, police must generally have probable cause that a crime has been committed. The man argued that there was no such probable cause here because all the man did was remove an unmarked strange object from his vehicle, without any knowledge of why it was there, or who it belonged to. Thus, there could be no crime of theft of the GPS device, and without such a crime, there could be no valid probable cause to search the man’s home.

The man also argued that police had no actual reason to believe the device was stolen. It could have been broken, or fallen off just as easily.

The Court found in favor of the man, saying that if it had found that removing the GPS was “theft,” then people would no longer have the ability to remove anything off of their vehicles if they didn’t know what it was, or who it belonged to.

The Court found that the police raided the man’s home based on nothing more than a hunch, making it an illegal search under the fourth amendment to the constitution.

Limitations on the GPS Rules

The U.S. Supreme Court has found that GPS monitors are forms of search and seizure, and thus police must obtain a warrant to attach or use one. To get that warrant, police must show probable cause exists. The same applies to using any data from a cell phone that tracks people’s location.

The GPS/Probable Cause rule may only be limited to criminal cases. Recently, a Chicago city code that required food trucks to attach GPS tracking devices was challenged as being unconstitutional.  The Illinois Supreme Court found that because the requirement was a condition to get a license to operate, and not an action by law enforcement, there was no fourth amendment violation.

Make sure you know your rights if you are accused of committing a crime. Contact the Miami criminal attorneys at Velasquez & Associates P.A. today with any questions you may have.

Resources:

pacificlegal.org/chicagos-gps-tracking-rule-violates-fourth-amendment-property-rights-and-is-super-creepy/

arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2020/02/removing-a-gps-tracking-device-from-your-car-isnt-theft-court-rules/

https://www.jvelasquezlaw.com/police-need-a-warrant-to-use-a-stingray-location-tracking-device/

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