Should police have ability to secretly track vehicles with GPS?
In 2003, Michael Sveum was suspected of stalking a woman in Madison. Police got a warrant and put a GPS tracking device on Sveum's car while it was sitting in his driveway. Police recorded his car's movements for five weeks. The data suggested he was indeed stalking the woman, so police got another warrant to search his car and home where they found incriminating evidence to arrest him. He was eventually convicted of stalking.
Sveum claimed the GPS tracking was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
Not true, says the Madison-based District 4 Court of Appeals. They ruled that police can attach GPS devices to cars to track movement even if the driver isn't the suspect as long as its done in public.
Privacy advocates are quite upset about the supposed violations. Is this a fair method of police investigation?
Even the judges who made the ruling aren't comfortable with it, says theAssociated Press
But the judges said they "are more than a little troubled" by their own conclusion and asked Wisconsin lawmakers to consider regulating the use of GPS by police, businesses and individuals.
The court's argument from the AP:
Sveum, now 41, argued some of the tracking took place in areas out of public view, such as his garage and his workplace's garage.
The court disagreed. The tracking did not violate constitutional protections because the device only gave police information that could have been obtained through visual surveillance, Lundsten wrote.
Even though the device followed Sveum's car to private places, a police officer tracking Sveum could have seen when his car entered or exited a garage, Lundsten reasoned. Physically attaching the device to the car also was not a violation, he wrote, because Sveum's driveway is a public place.
If police use the GPS to track people in ways they could do legally, such as following them along public streets, then this new method is also legal, the judges said.
Does this ruling take away one's right to privacy? What if you were being tracked just because your spouse also used the vehicle and was a suspect in a crime?
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