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Massachusetts Police Can't Place GPS On Autos Without Warrant

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the good-news-suspects dept.

Privacy 194

pickens writes "The EFF reports that the Supreme Court of Massachusetts has held in Commonwealth v. Connolly that police may not place GPS tracking devices on cars without first getting a warrant, reasoning that the installation of the GPS device was a seizure of the suspect's vehicle. Search and seizure is a legal procedure used in many civil law and common law legal systems whereby police or other authorities and their agents, who suspect that a crime has been committed, do a search of a person's property and confiscate any relevant evidence to the crime. According to the decision, 'when an electronic surveillance device is installed in a motor vehicle, be it a beeper, radio transmitter, or GPS device, the government's control and use of the defendant's vehicle to track its movements interferes with the defendant's interest in the vehicle notwithstanding that he maintains possession of it.' Although the case only protects drivers in Massachusetts, another recent state court case, People v. Weaver in the State of New York, also held that because modern GPS devices are far more powerful than beepers, police must get a warrant to use the trackers, even on cars and people traveling the public roads."

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194 comments

What is very sad (5, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592573)

is that there had to be a case where the Police overstepped their authority, and did this without a warrant, before this question of law could be settled.

That's a definite flaw in our legal system: someone has to be abused (at least) once before the courts can rule.

Re:What is very sad (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592619)

Yeah. Had they acted early, they could have avoided the Eugenics War.

Re:What is very sad (2, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592625)

It's only good that they need to get it. What's the problem anyway - if it's justified to put a GPS tracking device in the car, they get the warrant. This decreases the abuse from police where they would use those device's without a good reason.

Re:What is very sad (2, Funny)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593711)

Actually, I would have thought that the Fourth Amendment makes it somewhat doubtful that this can be done to a U.S. citizen at all. It states that:

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.

The specificity requirement would tend to indicate that the one placing the GPS tracker specifies the place it will be used, which sort of defeats the purpose of placing the tracker in the first place.

Re:What is very sad (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#29594333)

You can describe a place without stating the location or address.

For example, if you think someone was the bank robber you're looking for, and hide the money, you can describe the place as 'the place the money is hidden'. That is what the warrant is trying to find.

It's essentially the same as how they do normal search warrants...they don't have to specify, for example, which murder weapon they're going to be looking for and seize. They just say they're looking for anything connected with that specific murder, including a weapon that is approximately X size and shape.

The fourth just means that warrants have to state what their purpose is and what the police intend to find. It doesn't mean they have to specify exactly what they will find and where.

And before asking 'how vague is allowed', well, that's essentially up to the judge, who do have rules and guidelines they follow when issuing warrants.

It sounds extremely silly and pointless when stated, but the point is that it go before a judge with that information on it is the actual check, not that it 'have the information' at all.

Judges tend to let police trade off broadness...i.e, if you want a wide net that lets you seize a lot of stuff, you have to specify a small location. The ultimate example being the area of a crime scene, which police can search with no stated items being looked for, although that's not actually via a 'warrant'.

Likewise, if you want to search all of someone's house, you damn well better have some sort of specific thing you're looking for, and not just general evidence. And you can't look where that thing can't be found...if you're looking for a crowbar, you can't look inside a file folder.

I don't know what the rules or standards are going to be for GPS trackers. The argument before was that you had no expectation of privacy of where you drove, because people could follow you. But the courts apparently realized that, in the real world, you can actually detect when people follow you, so you do have an expectation when you know they aren't.

Re:What is very sad (2, Insightful)

Chelloveck (14643) | more than 4 years ago | (#29594337)

I'm pretty sure that even when the Bill of Rights was written, courts would have considered a vehicle (say, a carriage or boat) to be a "place to be searched" for the purposes of issuing a warrant. Even if the vehicle is in motion, "Bob's carriage" or "the good ship Lollipop" describes a particular place to be searched.

Re:What is very sad (1, Insightful)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592715)

Why is that sad? You expected the people who made the laws 100 years ago to predict the existence of a satellite-based global positioning system with modules small enough to be placed on a vehicle to track it anywhere on the planet? THOSE MORONS!

Re:What is very sad (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592855)

Why is that sad? You expected the people who made the laws 100 years ago to predict the existence of a satellite-based global positioning system with modules small enough to be placed on a vehicle to track it anywhere on the planet? THOSE MORONS!

Note how the judge had to classify that "seizure" to ban it. If you need a new law, why not write a new law?

Re:What is very sad (5, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593047)

Judges are forced to do stuff like that, because the lazy legislators are not doing their job. As soon as this case hit the news, the legislators should have been passing laws or constitutional amendments that stated, "The People's movements shall not be tracked except when a warrant is issued by a judge."

Re:What is very sad (1)

Verdatum (1257828) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593093)

I agree with you that laws are preferable to bench legistation, but even if a law was instated, (unless I'm mistaken) the judge still would have to do the same thing, due to ex post facto issues.

Re:What is very sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29593385)

Not so. The legislatures can make certain laws retroactive, it's just that criminalizing something is prohibited. There's nothing in the Constitution saying that the US Congress couldn't pass a law requiring warrants to have been issued, and even banning the evidenced collected without a warrant, if the police, for example, avoided getting a warrant because they knew they wouldn't get one. They could even blanket ban the evidence, though I think without the law being in place, some provision should be made for good-faith acts on the part of the police.

I don't know about all the states though.

Re:What is very sad (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593729)

It's more likely that the legislature would furiously work to circumvent judicial interference. Gotta be tough on crime!

Re:What is very sad (1)

hedge49 (147092) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593839)

We routinely volunteer our movements with the use of shoppers discount and debit/credit cards, RFID toll devices on our cars, turned on cellphones (and call logs), and voluntary presence in an increasingly 'on camera' landscape. Seems hard to believe that a GPS 'implant' is considered any more intrusive, except that its purpose is more explicitly for evidentiary information gathering. Mass and Houston police, who were recently prevented by public outcry from deploying 'Predator' type continuous surveillance drones over the city, are probably Googling the same searches...'network + camera + 1989 Volvo 145 + rusty red + driver in curlers + body in trashbags in rear'...

Re:What is very sad (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 4 years ago | (#29594329)

Sorry, none of those give at all the same level of detail as GPS. The GPS can tell where you (or, your car) is every second of the day. The fact that you were at the store at this time only really tells you that; the store doesn't know where you were prior, or after. The same with everything else in your list. Also, the more detailed tracking done in this case is by the government... far more menecing than any of your examples as well.

The government explicity doesn't have the right to monitor us continuously without a warrant. That's what being "secure in your person and possessions" means.

Re:What is very sad (2, Informative)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 4 years ago | (#29594087)

Why should we have laws for new shit that nobody's thought before.

The government should be on a "DENY ALL, ALLOW FOO" type policy for ALL actions. If the government wants to do something "new" they should get permission before they do it. PERIOD.

In this case, the police should have had a policy for GPS tracking devices in place BEFORE the first one was deployed. Strict guidelines on when, how, and why they are used.

This is the problem with the shoot first, ask questions later mentality we tend to have in our government.

Re:What is very sad (2, Informative)

andymadigan (792996) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592967)

It's sad that the police saw fit to abuse an area of the law that was ill-defined rather than following the logical procedure of getting a warrant.

Re:What is very sad (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593535)

Just one of the many joys of living with a Constitution that sets limits on laws: laws are seen as being... advisory... until they are challenged and ultimately confirmed or struck on Constitutional grounds.

Re:What is very sad (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593843)

If the ruling went the other way it would be great, that the police saved time thier & courts getting warrants and spent more time stopping crime!
I think GP was looking for a way for people to make the area of the law well defined instead of pushing it and finding out what happened (often letting criminals go free, if they were wrong)

Re:What is very sad (2, Insightful)

x_MeRLiN_x (935994) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592999)

You misunderstood the GP's post. He's expressing dismay that someone must overstep the mark, as ambiguous as it is, before proceedings can be brought and a judge can rule on whether the defendant acted unlawfully. What he's suggesting is that there ought to be a way for either the police, an independent body or perhaps an individual to identify ambiguous areas of law, that exist because of a changing world or otherwise, and seek clarification from a judge as to how the law should be interpreted.

Whether this is in fact impossible under the current system, or whether his proposal would be unworkable, I could not say.

Re:What is very sad (1)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593327)

So in other words, we need better QA for the "program" that is the US legal system. I'll agree with that.

Re:What is very sad (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593339)

Isn't that exactly what declaratory judgment [wikipedia.org] is supposed to be?

Re:What is very sad (1)

codegen (103601) | more than 4 years ago | (#29594071)

Declaratory judgments require a case or controversy. An organization such as the EFF can't seek a declaratory judgement since they are not party to the controversy. What you are thinking of is an advisory opinion [wikipedia.org] . We have it it Canada, but most US courts are not allowed to issue advisory opinions.

Re:What is very sad (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 4 years ago | (#29594391)

I believe judges can't comment on how they'd interperate beforehand because that would been see as writing the law.. effectively changing what the leglistlate said (or failed to say). Also, while a lower court may interperate the law one way, that doesn't mean a higher court (or even another judge at the same level) won't disagree... so it'd also be a waste of time.

Re:What is very sad (1)

slackbheep (1420367) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593329)

It's not sad that it took 14 years before a ruling was made on this? I'm all for not being bogged down with unnecessary laws, but who really thinks this is the first time GPS has been used like this?

Re:What is very sad (1)

jggimi (1279324) | more than 4 years ago | (#29594273)

...100 years ago...

As far as I know, the "Bill of Rights" was adopted September 25, 1789. If that's correct, then the period of time these amendments to the constitution have been effective would be 220 years, four days, not including today.

Re:What is very sad (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592727)

"That's a definite flaw in our legal system: someone has to be abused (at least) once before the courts can rule."

The judges are lazy! Sounds like living in legal Haskell...

Re:What is very sad (0, Troll)

bkpark (1253468) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592803)

is that there had to be a case where the Police overstepped their authority, and did this without a warrant, before this question of law could be settled.

That's a definite flaw in our legal system: someone has to be abused (at least) once before the courts can rule.

Um, no. That's the flaw in the common law system [wikipedia.org] , but that flaw exists by definition, since the judges cannot rule on cases that have not been brought before them.

In America, though, nothing stopped the state legislators from passing a law explicitly saying that police may not surreptitiously place a tracker on a car before getting a warrant. They could have done that long before any police officer got it in their head to overstep their boundary.

But of course, they were---especially in Massachusetts---too busy taxing and spending their constituent's money to devote any time to protecting their fundamental rights. But make no mistake. It is not the system that has failed, it's the legislators that the people of Massachusetts elected that have failed.

Re:What is very sad (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593031)

In some countries, you can bring hypothetical cases to the courts for trial. This is particularly useful when you want to get a law overturned as being unconstitutional because, unlike the US system, you don't have to wait for someone to be harmed by the bad law. The US system has a nasty loophole here, where you can pass unconstitutional laws and have them classify people prosecuted under them as non-citizens. These people then don't have standing to bring a case before the supreme court to get the law overturned.

Re:What is very sad (3, Informative)

locallyunscene (1000523) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593455)

In America, though, nothing stopped the state legislators from passing a law explicitly saying that police may not surreptitiously place a tracker on a car before getting a warrant. They could have done that long before any police officer got it in their head to overstep their boundary.

But of course, they were---especially in Massachusetts---too busy taxing and spending their constituent's money to devote any time to protecting their fundamental rights. But make no mistake. It is not the system that has failed, it's the legislators that the people of Massachusetts elected that have failed.

Nice troll. The law does specifically require a warrant [slashdot.org] . I'm rather upset that the police thought they could get away with it and wanted to test it. Just get the damn warrant! If your suspicions are sound you should be able to get it!

The ability of judges to relatively freely interpret laws as written is one of the checks and and balances in the system that has always amazed me. On one hand, it protects the people against bad laws. On the other it opens another avenue for abuse. I think it's better overall, but you end up with a very muddled law system.

This may be a bit out there, but I feel like the judiciary is a bit "unfinished". I think there needs to be better way for the judicial branch to recommend removal of and changes to laws to the legislative branch. Not force those recommendations mind you, just improve the process of refining laws.

Re:What is very sad (0)

bkpark (1253468) | more than 4 years ago | (#29594177)

Nice troll. The law does specifically require a warrant. I'm rather upset that the police thought they could get away with it and wanted to test it. Just get the damn warrant! If your suspicions are sound you should be able to get it!

O.K. So I was wrong on that, and I guess I may be wrong on the next thing I am saying, as I am unfamiliar with this particular Massachusetts law, but what the law should have done is specify punishment (or at least require the police departments to come up with disciplinary procedure) if an officer tries to place a tracking device without warrant.

Requiring warrant with no negative consequences in the event of noncompliance (beyond being unable to use the evidence, which would have been the case anyway without warrant, with or without the tracking device) is nothing but weaseling out of the responsibility (by the legislators)---kinda like how some legislators keep claiming national health care will not cover undocumented aliens but continue to oppose any verification mechanisms.

Re:What is very sad (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593467)

If politicians had to listen to all hypotheticals, including all the batshit insane ones, they'd never find time to deal with reality. If it hasn't happened once in the entire history of the courts, it's probably not worth piling another law on top of an extremely long list already to deal with it unless it's a major new principle.

Re:What is very sad (1)

kilfarsnar (561956) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592823)

Good point. I have often thought this myself. We all can probably think of laws we think are unconstitutional. It would be good to be able to challenge those laws before someone's rights are violated.

re: definite flaw (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592931)

"That's a definite flaw in our legal system: someone has to be abused (at least) once before the courts can rule."

Do you realize that is the same dynamic at work in our free-market economic system? People have to get repeatedly abused by the system (e.g. corporations) before adjustments are made to stop the abuse (usually in the form of kludges rather than real solutions, but that's another discussion). I'm not saying that's the way it should be, merely that this is the way it is. This is DEscriptive, then, but we can choose to be PREscriptive when we work up enough collective bile and disgust over our treatment of each other to then do something permanent about it.

Really all of human history is like that: just one knee-jerk response after another, lather, rinse, and repeat. We're still learning the hard way, and sadly doing a lot of RE-learning on a routine basis.

Re: definite flaw (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593135)

Actually there are a lot of laws in place to protect citizens from abuse by corporations, but many people don't avail themselves of those laws (typically due to ignorance). For example I saw a story on local tv about a guy who purchased some vitamins for a "trail bottle" of only $2. But the company charged him the full $99 instead. Then they send him another bottle for another $99. And another. And another. He stopped the automatic shipment, but the company refused to refund the money for the other bottles.

The guy just sat their on TV crying about losing ~$300, but if he had taken time to learn the law, he'd know all he has to do is return the bottles, with tracking confirmation, and then file a credit card dispute to recover the money. That's what the law states - If you return something, and prove your returned it, then a company MUST refund the money.

Anyway back to point - Laws already exist to protect the consumer. But most consumers don't know the law so they don't use it.

Re: definite flaw (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593353)

Those laws were themselves originally knee-jerks. Follow the money.

Re:What is very sad (1)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593555)

I don't think it's a flaw that our system can adapt to new situations. Do you want to be the person who's locked away in a room writing new laws for millions of things that "could" happen?

Not that the system doesn't have it's flaws, but adaptability isn't one of them.

Re:What is very sad (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#29594217)

I don't think it's a flaw that our system can adapt to new situations. Do you want to be the person who's locked away in a room writing new laws for millions of things that "could" happen? Not that the system doesn't have it's flaws, but adaptability isn't one of them.

I'm sorry but that's just silly. Do you really need a "person who's locked away in a room writing new laws for millions of things" before you can decide that hey, maybe we don't want the police to plant electronic devices on your property to track your every location at all times without a good reason, and that maybe getting a warrant is the standard way to show that there is a good reason? Seriously, how much foresight does that take?

For that matter ... Who has ever read the 4th Amendment and thinks that the authors of it would support this kind of warrantless surveillance of citizens? Do they imagine that the Founders would have said "no, we only mentioned papers and effects, so clearly finding a clever new technological way to warrentlessly surveil people who have not been charged with a crime is A-OK!" I'd like to meet these people, if only to see whether they really exist. No, really, in the media and on the Internet I see opinions that are this asinine and childish but I've never met a real living breathing person who actually felt that way.

Re:What is very sad (2, Interesting)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593741)

Great, common sense wins for once. If the cops really need to track someone, they can still do so. It only takes a short period of time to ask a judge to sign a warrant. If a judge isn't willing to sign the warrant, then the cops have no case, simple as that. Lazy cops who would rather rely on technology instead of "police work" have no business being a cop.

Re:What is very sad (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#29594241)

Err... That's the way the courts act. They don't make laws, they figure out how existing laws apply to new classes of situations.

The basic problem is that there is no right of information privacy in US law. In fact, the common law right of privacy didn't exist until Louis Brandeis wrote his famous law review article, and even *that* varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Way back in 1973, HUD under Elliot Richardson undertook a study on the privacy effects of this new information technology. It was very prescient and insightful about the coming problem, but curiously anemic in its response, which has specific action items onlly for Federal agencies, even though it was clear from the report that they were only a tiny slice of the problem. Why? Because Richardson left HUD (where as a liberal Republican he'd been safely buried) and took over Justice after the Watergate "Saturday Night Massacre". His replacement: Caspar Weinberger, later Reagan's Defense Secretary.

The report's recommendation for the private sector: let the market take its course, and where problems arise that are unbearable, write new laws to patch that problem. That's been the basic stance of US statutory privacy law ever since. That's why we have HIPPAA, and a patchwork of *different* laws embodying *different* philosophies of privacy for each commercial sector, such as banking and credit. It's a mass of ad hoc patches passed whenever the political heat on some problem got too much to ignore. Unlike the European Union, we don't have a fundamental information privacy law. That's why the details of our private lives can be publicly traded.

One of the upshots of this is things we can *see* are *obviously* abuses have to be hashed out in the courts using circuitous reasoning. We have no legal *interest* in the details of our private lives, which are just another commodity. We have to do all kinds of intellectual gymnastics to fit specific acts into frameworks not designed to cover them, because we miss the fundamental interest we have in our privacy, what Brandeis called, "the right to be left alone." We have no such right in US statutory law.

Re:What is very sad (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 4 years ago | (#29594275)

Someone better tell Spiderman... He's been doing this for ages

Scary. (1)

Drunken Buddhist (467947) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592579)

"Your tracking device appears to have malfunctioned, citizen."

(or)

Seems that Inspector Gadget will have to figure out a new way to track the bad guy back to his lair.

Free to drive (3, Funny)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592597)

You are now free to drive around the Commonwealth.

With apologies to Southwest Airlines.

TERRORISM!! (3, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592603)

There are terrorists, pedophiles and drug dealers out there. Any arguments for civil liberties and the rule of law are automatically invalid!

Re:TERRORISM!! (2, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593041)

First they came for the bomb-making kiddie-loving drug-dealers ....

Re:TERRORISM!! (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593163)

andnothingofvaluewaslost

Re:TERRORISM!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29593855)

... and then they came for L4t3r4lu5.

Re:TERRORISM!! (1)

MiniMike (234881) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593123)

What about the civil liberties OF THE CHILDREN!?!?!?!?

Re:TERRORISM!! (3, Interesting)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29594197)

silly rabbit. Civil liberties are not for kids.

Really. Just take one look at the average school board handing out restrictions left and right to children.
Thou shalt wear the uniform approved by the state, thou shalt not disrupt class by having the wrong color hair.
Thou shalt not express wear the any symbol of a faith other than our own (crosses are ok, pentagrams, jewish and islamic symbols are not).
Thou shalt not question our authority to suppress you beneath our jack booted thugs.
Thou shalt not have tattoos or piercings, thou shalt not be gay, etc.

Children have no rights and no real representation, yet when they do work they are taxed, when they spend money they are taxed (in locations with sales tax).
Yet they can not vote, nor can they legally protest. This bothered me when I was young, and it still bothers me now that I am old.
Unfortunately I have no answers, no solutions.
Allowing young workers and buyers to go tax free would inevitably be exploited.
Allowing the vote is not a good idea due to their lack of knowledge and critical thinking (though the same could be said for many adults).

Right against self-incrimination (3, Interesting)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592637)

You cannot be forced to provide testimony or evidence against yourself. By tracking your vehicle, the state is forcing you to disclose your location at all times against your will, which is also a violation of the 5th.

This is the same reason why you cannot be forced to reveal the encryption keys on your computer by your own will.

Re:Right against self-incrimination (3, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592761)

You cannot be forced to provide testimony or evidence against yourself. By tracking your vehicle, the state is forcing you to disclose your location at all times against your will, which is also a violation of the 5th.

That doesn't sound right; by that logic wiretapping would never be allowed because the defendant may incriminate himself against his will.

Re:Right against self-incrimination (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592883)

That doesn't sound right; by that logic wiretapping would never be allowed because the defendant may incriminate himself against his will.

But the difference with a wiretap a warrant is required and the wiretap is only active for a set period of time. Plus it is managed by the phone company who has a legal obligation to remove the tap if the warrant expires. The police can not set a tap on your phone on their own. Plus, how do they know the person driving the vehicle is the person they are tracking?

Re:Right against self-incrimination (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593053)

But the difference with a wiretap a warrant is required

The point of the story is that now you need a warrant to put in a GPS unit.

Plus it is managed by the phone company who has a legal obligation to remove the tap if the warrant expires.

Not necessarily true, you can tap a phone with a device that transmits directly to the police via radio waves.

Plus, how do they know the person driving the vehicle is the person they are tracking?

When the phone is first answered you don't know who picked it up either; in both cases the police are monitoring a technical device.

My point is just that self-incrimination is not really implicated here.

Re:Right against self-incrimination (1)

Full Linux Alchemist (914596) | more than 4 years ago | (#29594221)

The point of the story is that now you need a warrant to put in a GPS unit.

You say it like its a bad thing ;-)

Not necessarily true, you can tap a phone with a device that transmits directly to the police via radio waves.

When the phone is first answered you don't know who picked it up either; in both cases the police are monitoring a technical device.

Law enforcement can only admit evidence that is within the scope of the warrant. Anything that is outside of the scope gets discarded. The helps prevent fishing expeditions by law enforcement. On a aside, what happens if I find one of these on my car? I think it would be funny to put it on another police car and let them track that. Another thought, if no warrant is required what stops citizens from GPS'ing police cars?

My point is just that self-incrimination is not really implicated here.

I'm not arguing that police shouldn't use this technology but whats really wrong with a warrant. If they have probable cause, they will get the warrant. Plus there are judges on standby all hours for emergency orders. Idk why it is such a hassle, probable cause is a really low bar to jump over.

Re:Right against self-incrimination (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592935)

I dont think this was reppelled on the base of the 5th. Notice that a judge CAN auhtorize this tracking, while he cannot force you to testify against yourself (or give your encryption keys).

This has more to do with the recognition that tracking your position is as intrusive as wiretapping you, which sounds reasonnable.

As for passwords/5th amendment, I think we need to state in the constitution that whatever happens inside your brain is off-limit. This might sound science-fictionesque, but if a lighter version of an MRI is ever created, I wouldnt want it used as a routine test for terrorist intent or whatever (see automatical "evel intent" detection by cameras in airports/planes).

Re:Right against self-incrimination (1)

bdenton42 (1313735) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593503)

This is the same reason why you cannot be forced to reveal the encryption keys on your computer by your own will.

Yes, but would you really want to put it to the test? http://news.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/07/15/120220 [slashdot.org] . That guy is still in jail to this day.

Re:Right against self-incrimination (3, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593649)

What nonsense. You can refuse answering questions or giving evidence, but the police can observe your actions without warrant where possible and with warrant where necessary. If that reveals your crimes that's fair game, the 5th amendment doesn't apply unless you've been asked or instructed to provide something. It is then your right to refuse.

Re:Right against self-incrimination (2, Insightful)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593981)

I like your interpretation better, unfortunately that's not the common interpretation. People are required to turn over evidence against themselves all the time. Evidence of where you have been, what you did/said/bought is all fair game (with just cause.) Heck if you recorded yourself, and the prosecutor hears about it you can be forced to turn that over. Your not even allowed to destroy it if you know it is evidence in a on going case. You are not required to tell anyone about the GPS/tapes/purchases... that you know about because of the 5th, and your not required to take the stand (and the prosecution is not allowed to use the fact you won't testify either.) But any actions you take can be used against you.

And the point goes to the criminals (1, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592695)

The idea that somehow installing a tracking device interferes with the owner's use of the vehicle is preposterous. It is even more preposterous to make that claim if the owner has no knowledge of the installation of the device.

Neither is this a matter of illegal search and seizure, as the movements of a car can be tracked directly by having a car follow it everywhere. The tracking device does nothing more than make this an automated task.

The courts are wrong here and it does nothing but empower criminals and reduce the avenues of justice for the average citizen. This type of weakening of police powers is precisely why groups like the Yakuza are able to get away with so much in Japan. By skirting the very edges of the law, they are able to remain untouchable while those they terrorize are very likely to overstep their legal bounds due to the inability of the police to successfully remove the true criminals.

I don't support the EFF because I don't support this type of pseudo-YRO type of knee-jerk ideology. Pure ideology is fine, but when it runs afoul of reality it must bend.

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592771)

Your a fucking idiot, sorry to break it to you. The police still have the power to do what they need to get done and can place gps units on suspects cars. What they can not do is do it WITHOUT A WARRANT. What's that? It sounded like a piece of paper was being thrown in the shredder, man I used to remember what it was called, started with a c something.. oh well hey look American idol is on!

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (4, Funny)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592805)

This type of weakening of police powers is precisely why groups like the Yakuza are able to get away with so much in Japan.

Gojira, too.

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (5, Insightful)

EastCoastSurfer (310758) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592813)

So you think it's okay to just put GPS tracking devices in each person? The device would do nothing more than automate following each everywhere. The device could be put it at birth and the owner may never had any knowledge of it.

Stuff like this would make it real easy to round up those people who don't quite agree with the current government.

And the point goes to the Citizen-Sovereigns (1)

epluribusunum (1333207) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592831)

The freakin cops have so much power and whatever power these government types get, they always abuse. If they really need to track someone, they can get a warrant licketty-split. These cops just crave plenary power to do whatever they want to the very citizen-sovereigns they work for.

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (2, Interesting)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592835)

Sufficient quantitative differences can become qualitative ones. If a police officer is required to take time out of his day to tail a car, then it will likely be for a good reason; they simply don't have the manpower to tail people without cause. If they can just slap a GPS tracker on any car without a warrant, it becomes trivial to troll for suspects. Requiring a warrant is perfectly reasonable: If they have probable cause, they can ask a judge for a warrant. They can still install the device secretly, so the suspect isn't aware of it, but there is some level of oversight. If police aren't constrained, they *will* overstep their bounds, because their goal is to catch lawbreakers, not protect rights. It's not maliciousness (in most cases), they just prioritize law enforcement. We have judges, theoretically, to act as a check on that power, to ensure that the pursuit of lawbreakers does not unduly affect the innocent. Requiring a warrant is a perfectly reasonable way to do this.

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (1)

axl917 (1542205) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592837)

It does nothing of the sort, stop being such a drama queen. If law enforcement has a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, then they present evidence to a judge who can the issue a warrant. If they wish to search your house or tail your car, it is all the same thing.

Checks and balances. Read up on it sometime.

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (1)

Thornburg (264444) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592863)

Neither is this a matter of illegal search and seizure, as the movements of a car can be tracked directly by having a car follow it everywhere. The tracking device does nothing more than make this an automated task.

You're wrong. If the cops are following someone's car--on suspician, no one is in imminent danger and they are not aware of a specific crime having been committed--and then the car goes onto private property (say, a large estate with miles of road on it), the police can't keep following the vehicle without either a warrant or probable cause. If they put a GPS tag on the vehicle, they can track it wherever it goes, public or private. This constitutes an illegal invasion of private property.

Suppose that Lockheed becomes successful in selling their flying camera drones (these things are relatively small) to police departments. Do you want the police flying a camera around your property without your permission? How about inside your home?

Allowing GPS tracking without warrant or probably cause is the first step to allowing the police to monitor everything every person does at all times.

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (5, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592865)

The idea that somehow installing a tracking device interferes with the owner's use of the vehicle is preposterous. It is even more preposterous to make that claim if the owner has no knowledge of the installation of the device.

Precisely. For example, it's clear that a concealed spy camera, placed discretely in people's living rooms or bedrooms can have no effect on their normal behavior or use of these rooms. So, it's clear that no one should need warrants to install such devices. To enforce such a debilitating requirement would give "empower" criminal citizens to do as they please within the privacy of their own homes. Clearly, an unjust and unfair outcome.

APS (3, Funny)

pleappleappleap (1182301) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592875)

I volunteer you to be the first to have a GPS shoved up your ass.

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (3, Insightful)

kilfarsnar (561956) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592907)

Suspects. The word is suspects. You cannot assume that the people being tracked are criminals. Besides, the ruling states that a warrant must be obtained, not that the police can't track cars with GPS. It provides valuable oversight on a police power that can easily be abused. I live in Massachusetts and this ruling actually makes me feel safer.

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29592997)

Waah, the police have to use proper procedure and get a warrant before finding out my travel patterns. OMG its the end of civilization and the country is going to be overrun by criminals now. Because warrants are so hard to obtain if the police have a reasonable need to track a vehicles movements.

If they have a reason to track somebody, let them present it to a judge and get a signature on a piece of paper allowing it.

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593765)

They don't need a warrant to track you, they can just follow you the low-tech way, this ruling just results in more police time being wasted tailing suspects!

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (3, Insightful)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593025)

Sometimes I think people such as yourself would stand in line to give up your freedoms if you could. Your post is wrong in several ways.

Neither is this a matter of illegal search and seizure, as the movements of a car can be tracked directly by having a car follow it everywhere. The tracking device does nothing more than make this an automated task.

You cannot follow them onto private property without some type of warrant. It's not the same.

This type of weakening of police powers

It's not weakening anything. It's a clarification of the boundaries. They shouldn't have been able to do it to start with.

By skirting the very edges of the law

Then change the law. Don't legislate from the bench.

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (2, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593415)

Sometimes I think people such as yourself would stand in line to give up your freedoms if you could. Your post is wrong in several ways.

He's trolling...well, more subtle than trolling, he just likes to be so tongue in cheek that you're never sure if he's serious. You have to look at other posts of his to realize he's just trying to get a rise out of people.

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593737)

You cannot follow them onto private property without some type of warrant. It's not the same.

Couldn't all data collected on private land require a warrant to be admissible in court? I mean I see your point, but it seams like this ruling will just result in wasting of police time following people round when a GPS tracker could do that for them, limiting the effectiveness of the automated gadget to that of the manual method would achieve the same thing. While a car would not be able to track them, what would the legal standing of a helicopter or UAV following them on private property be?

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (2, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593499)

I agree! Also, we should be able, without warrant, to put trackers on all police cars, and local, State and Federal legislators'. And yours.

It's OK; if you don't commit any crimes - or go near any, or have your vehicle stolen or borrowed, or are accidentally misidentified through a flaw in the flawless system - then you have nothing whatever to worry about.

Fair enough?

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (1)

MirthScout (247854) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593517)

The court did NOT rule that it interfered with the owners use of the vehicle as you claim.
The ruling is that the police tampering with the vehicle interferes with the owner's interest in the vehicle. In my opinion, this makes perfect sense because any interference with the owners interests in the property lessens the owners degree of ownership (control) of the property. It is in fact a partial seizure of that property.

Logically and from what I've read of the ruling so far, the fact that this case involved a GPS tracking device or that tracking was done seems to be irrelevant to the ruling. It is the mere fact that the vehicle was tampered with by someone other than the owner and without the owners permission (or a warrent which would be permission of the court) that is the real point. The ruling would, and should, be the same if the police had attached a small empty cardboard box to the car.

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593625)

Does this mean that the chalk mark the meter maids put on my tire are also outlawed? Because I could support that.

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (1)

MirthScout (247854) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593901)

Yes, unless there is a law allowing it.
Of course, good luck arguing about it in court unless you are rich and get a particularly good judge.

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29594307)

If the chalk mark can be used to track your movements then yes.

Since it can't no.

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (2, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593639)

>>>>>This type of weakening of police powers... groups like Yakuza

As scary as those types of groups (like KKK) may be, the group called "the police" are FAR scarier. Just check out these videos for yourself:
- unlawful search of innocent driver http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2ZV_kQh048 [youtube.com]

- unlawful arrest of Professor Gates http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n15KsSLQhBg [youtube.com]

- eating of an innocent pastor by police. His story http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUzd7G875Hc [youtube.com]
- Actual video of beating http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgejD6c-9YA [youtube.com]

- unknown person getting beaten http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrVbWYyfOMI [youtube.com]

- guy has already surrendered, but the cps start kicking him in the head http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vd5yrq2QB-g [youtube.com]

- I could go on and on and on with vide-after-video, but instead I'll share my own personal story:

I was on a VACATION doing a crosscountry trip from California to D.C. when I got stopped in Texas. I was nowhere near a border but for some reason the border patrol stopped me and demanded to see inside my trunk. I asked for a warrant and they said they had none. They asked me to step out of my car, and made me stand for an HOUR in the cold night air while they kept demanding to see inside my trunk. They did a visual search of my driver seat, passenger seat, and rear seat, but kept insisting they want to see inside my trunk. Finally they said, "You're not going to let us see your trunk?" And I said "not without a warrant... no." They then ordered me to get in the car and drive off.

What. The. Hell. Are we no longer allowed to enjoy a simple vacation without getting harassed by the Yakuza...oops I mean the Gestapo... oops I mean the U.S Feds???

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (1)

xednieht (1117791) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593813)

The founding fathers were criminals in the eyes of the British. The courts in this case are correct. It's not about ideology it's about principle. The assumption you make is that all "criminals" are bad and all "officers" are good, a bit too elementary.

Re:And the point goes to the criminals (1)

rliden (1473185) | more than 4 years ago | (#29594121)

The courts are wrong here and it does nothing but empower criminals and reduce the avenues of justice for the average citizen. This type of weakening of police powers is precisely why groups like the Yakuza are able to get away with so much in Japan. By skirting the very edges of the law, they are able to remain untouchable while those they terrorize are very likely to overstep their legal bounds due to the inability of the police to successfully remove the true criminals.

Here is the thing no one is a criminal yet. That is a foundation of our legal system. People are innocent until proven guilty. So this doesn't reduce the power of police over criminals. It puts in check the power of the executive branch with regards to citizens who are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. This doesn't prevent the police from using GPS trackers. It makes sure their use is checked by the judicial system.

Your bad analogy about a crime gang in Japan is irrelevant. We're talking about the United States not Japan. Japan's legal system might let suspects skirt their system and the US might let suspect skirt theirs, but this decision has nothing to do with the Japanese legal system.

Bait cars? (3, Interesting)

Avalain (1321959) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592713)

Would this law come into play in the use of bait cars? On one side the police would be tracking a suspect via GPS installed on a car without a warrant. On the other side it would be the cops own vehicle instead of the suspects. Common sense tells me that bait cars would be perfectly fine, but I can still see a car thief using this ruling as a defense.

Re:Bait cars? (5, Insightful)

Drunken Buddhist (467947) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592745)

There is no expectation of privacy or security in a stolen vehicle. In fact, there is an expectation of seizure.

Re:Bait cars? (0, Offtopic)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592833)

Hi, police cannot seize from you (in a legal sense) what is not yours. Defense fails.

Re:Bait cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29593597)

Hi, the expectation is that they would seize you. Defense upheld.

Re:Bait cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29593095)

Even if they did need a warrant, can't imagine it would be hard. Even if they wanted one to cover their asses...

Would this kill Oregon's GPS mileage tax? (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 4 years ago | (#29592929)

Re:Would this kill Oregon's GPS mileage tax? (2, Informative)

Zordak (123132) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593005)

Why would a ruling by the Supreme Court of Maine affect anything in Oregon?

Re:Would this kill Oregon's GPS mileage tax? (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593475)

I suspect the Oregon police are doing the same with GPS.

Any other alternative to the high speed chase? (2, Insightful)

richardoz (529837) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593017)

I would think that is is preferable to track a suspects car (at a distance) using one of these devices than to persue them at close range causing a "high speed chase". A number of innicent persons have been hurt as a result of police persuits. Not every police department can have a helicopter ready for these due to cost constraints.

Re:Any other alternative to the high speed chase? (1)

MirthScout (247854) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593663)

I agree as long as the police to it legally. They present their evidence for reasonable suspicion of a suspect to a judge. The judge issues a warrant allowing the police to tamper with the car owner's property by installing the GPS tracking device.

A Follow-up Question (2, Funny)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593019)

How about the reverse? Can we put GPS trackers on cop cars? I really want to replicate the video game minimap experience with a GPS dash unit.

fishing expeditions (5, Informative)

Darth Cider (320236) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593043)

Suppose the technology becomes so cheap that a hundred thousand motorists can be tracked by GPS in any given city, much less any given state. Why wouldn't the police want to deploy every available tracking device in a fishing expedition, even if no suspicion of wrong-doing guides their choice of who to track? The odds are that eventually someone innocent will be in the wrong place at an inauspicious time. I wouldn't want to be that person, then have to explain how "opportunity" is irrelevant, especially if there is any vaguely tenable argument for the presence of means and motive.

Let them get warrants. Let there be some oversight. The technology hasn't been banned. Presumption of innocence shouldn't begin in the courtroom.

Re:fishing expeditions (2, Informative)

JediTrainer (314273) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593297)

Suppose the technology becomes so cheap that a hundred thousand motorists can be tracked by GPS in any given city, much less any given state.

Why bother when you can already do this with cameras [infowars.com] ?

Sorry Spidey... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29593187)

...all those criminals you tracked with your spider trackers are now being released from prison. You unconstitutional hack you...

C'mon, someone HAD to say it.

[and please note: I am VERY glad for this ruling]

Why not get a warrent? (3, Interesting)

redelm (54142) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593463)

Why should the police be worried about getting a warrent? It is not as if officers are walking around with GPS devices to plant on suspects they suddenly see. No, these are planned operations with justification. Then why not get a warrent?

Police should not be wasting public resources nor possessing and exercising excessive discretion in "following hunches". Get the warrent. Its' easy.

How is the GPS installation physically done? (2, Interesting)

XnavxeMiyyep (782119) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593769)

How is the GPS installation physically performed? Do they have a cop walk up to a car and clip it onto the bottom, all while hoping no one notices? What if the car is in a garage? What if you see them putting the GPS on your car, after they have obtained a warrant? Are you allowed to take it off?

Re:How is the GPS installation physically done? (1)

gcatullus (810326) | more than 4 years ago | (#29594259)

Car is parked on public street, and cop does indeed clip/tape the gps on. Cop could not enter private property i.e. garage to do that. If you removed the gps unit after a warrant you could be charged with damage to police property. Assuming that you didn't "damage" it I'm sure you'd be charged with something but it would be a tough sell.

I've always wondered, actually... (2, Interesting)

mark-t (151149) | more than 4 years ago | (#29593833)

Here's a question though.... if the owner has no knowledge of the installation of such a monitoring or tracking device, but later discovers it, is he or she committing any crime by disposing of it on their own? Particularly considering the fact that if they did not know about it, they would not necessarily have any reason to realize why it was there in the first place, and in some cases not even realize exactly what it is.

Donning my tinfoil (0)

saur2004 (801688) | more than 4 years ago | (#29594279)

Oh ya wasn't too hard to make this decision when auto manufacturers already slop their vehicles over with Onstar, Sinc, what-have-you, tech that is already lousy with GPS.
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