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Ruling on GPS Tracking Devices

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the unwarranted-surveillance dept.

Privacy 180

djembe2k writes "Score one for civil liberties. The NY Times is carrying a wire story (free reg. required, yadda) reporting that the Supreme Court of Washington state ruled today that a warrant is required by police to use GPS tracking devices to track suspects. A warrant actually was obtained in the case at hand, but the prosecutors argued that they hadn't really needed one, and they lost on this point. Here's the full text of the ruling."

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i rule (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950237)


You may rule, but... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950259)

I rule more because I got the third post [] . Neener, neener! :-p

Re:You may rule, but... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950279)

It's nice of mods to waste points flagging low-scoring AC posts offtopic, rather than waiting and raising the scores for insightful/interesting posts.

Thanks mods!

Re:You may rule, but... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950285)

It doesn't really matter. Those mod points will just be passed on to someone else to spend. It's like economics, spending money doesn't reduce the money supply.

Poll (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950548)

Should michael be prevented from posting more than 50 bullshit "stories" per day?

( ) Yes
( ) No
( ) Who is michael?
( ) Im a American. i dont understan teh queston???
( ) I am a nerd and will never have sex with a person of the other ... well ... sex, so why should I care?
( ) /me is Kathleen Fent ... plz spray ur load all over my ugly fuckface like CommodoreTaGoo deos
( ) some semi-funny CowboiKneel-option

Re:Poll (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950565)

( ) ???
(*) Profit!!!

Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted!
Reason: Your comment looks too much like ascii art.
Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted!
Reason: Your comment looks too much like ascii art.
Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted!
Reason: Your comment looks too much like ascii art.

I'll motherfucking show you motherfucking ascii art you fucking motherfuckerfuckers.

Ascii art your motherfucking mother, motherfucker.

Registration NOT required (5, Informative)

gatesh8r (182908) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950240)

Look here [] .


PARENT IS A GOATSE.C (693051) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950408)


Third post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950245)

Neener, neener! :)

Actions Speak Louder Than Words (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950247)

For over two years now, my colleagues and I have contended that the Bizarre style of Open Source programming has produced a technically inferior product, Linux, that is only permeating the commercial market due to the industry's attempt to appease the cyber-political forces of GNU. Even the most outspoken, die-hard advocates of Linux concede that other Unix-based operating systems (i.e. FreeBSD, BeOS) are superior to Linux. Yet, unlike the concessions given when comparing Linux to other Unix-based operating systems, the zealots in the Windows vs. Linux Wars have made their positions quite clear, each believing in the superiority of their own operating system and each demonstrating that neither side is willing to budge on the issue. However, what if one side admitted that the other side's operating system was better? What if one side surrendered to the other? That's exactly what happened. On February 13, 2003, Red Hat conceded defeat to Microsoft in the category of operating system security.

Adversaries of Linux, including myself, have for years argued that Linux is not secure. Our strongest line of reasoning points to the Linux operating system's lack of adherence to TCSEC (Trusted Computer Security Evaluation Criteria) and CC (Common Criteria) standards. (Please note that I said adherence and not certification, because an operating system can still be secure by voluntarily adhering to TCSEC and CC standards without being officially certified.)

In a press release issued on February 13, 2003, Red Hat announced that security in Microsoft Windows 2000 SP3 is provably and certifiably superior to security in Red Hat Linux. Well, ok, Red Hat didn't say that with words , but it most certainly said that with actions.

What Red Hat actually did say with words was that it is pursuing CC certification for Red Hat Linux Advanced Server [] at Evaluation Assurance Level 2 (EAL2). That's right, EAL2, the second lowest level of security assurance. Remember, higher numbers are better. Just to put this into perspective for you, Mac OS X is CC EAL3 certified, Sun Solaris is CC EAL4 certified, and Microsoft Windows 2000 SP3 is CC EAL4 certified.

Those are some pretty loud actions, and they're saying some pretty interesting things. They're saying that Linux is two levels of security behind Sun Solaris, a Unix-based operating system. They're saying Linux is two levels of security behind its arch nemesis, Microsoft Windows 2000. They're saying Linux is a full level of security behind Mac OS X, an Open Source operating system based not on Linux but on BSD. They're saying that Linux is the epitome of mediocrity, that Linux, in its current state, simply isn't up to par when it comes to operating system security, and here's the clincher: they're saying that all those Linux evangelists who have been preaching about the so-called "superior" security of Linux have been lying to you.

You don't have to take my word for it. This is straight from the mouth of the beast. Well, perhaps it would be better to say that this is straight from the actions of the beast. While the beast tries to put a positive spin on this blow to the credibility of Linux by saying that it hopes to be at EAL4 sometime in the far, distant, unforeseeable future, the beast's hazy vision does not negate the lack of security in the here and now.

The old axiom is right. Actions do speak louder than words, and they're saying, "Linux sucks."

Re:Actions Speak Louder Than Words (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950307)

And this has to do with cops and GPS ???

No Reg Links (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950248)

Honestly people, why keep linking to the "reg required" links?

NYTimes Story []
Alternate story []

Re:No Reg Links (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950282)

indeed []

Re:No Reg Links (-1, Troll)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950386)

New York Times?

New York TIMES?!?!??!

You think your better than us?


U. S.?


No way!

Hmm (5, Interesting)

wmspringer (569211) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950257)

Not sure what I think about this. On the one hand, I have to favor any ruling that increases privacy. On the other hand, what IS the difference between using a GPS device to track someone and just following him around? Is it merely that it allows someone to be tracked without significant effort or expense, thus expanding how much information can be collected with limited resources?

Re:Hmm (3, Funny)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950304)

Or, one could argue that, by being followed in the first place, they obviously committed a crime and the police are just in the usage of GPS technology.

I, for one, welcome our new GPS overlords.

Obviously committed a crime? (4, Informative)

n0nsensical (633430) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950316)

It's not the job of the police to determine whether someone is guilty of a crime; that's what juries are for.

Re:Obviously committed a crime? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950325)

It is the job of the police to determine if enough evidence exists to capture and charge a person with being guilty of a crime. I would hate to live in your world where anyone can be dragged up on any charges and left to the mercy of a jury.

Re:Obviously committed a crime? (4, Informative)

n0nsensical (633430) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950347)

Even so, there's a difference between obviously having committed a crime and being suspected of having committed a crime.

Re:Obviously committed a crime? (3, Funny)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950348)

It's also obviously not the job of /. posters to determine whether the parent was speaking earnestly or sarcastically.

Re:Hmm (5, Insightful)

prospero14 (233659) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950335)

what IS the difference between using a GPS device to track someone and just following him around?

According to the nyt article, the ruling states that a warrant is required to attach a GPS device to a suspect's vehicle. I think there is a clear philosophical (and constitutional) difference between following someone around a placing an electronic bug on their car. Thus this ruling is not just about privacy, but also about the sanctity of private property.

As surveilence technology becomes more prevelant and more sophisticated, this ruling may be an important precedent indeed.

Re:Hmm (0)

56ker (566853) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950489)

"As surveilence technology becomes more prevelant"

I survey you committing a spelling mistake. ;)

Re:Hmm (2, Funny)

toast0 (63707) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950601)

Your bad joke is an aggravating factor in sentencing you for the crime of spelling harassment.

easy workaround (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950585)

Get a private investigator to do it. PIs are not subject to the Bill of Rights.

Re:Hmm (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950373)

It's more than an issue of cost savings. WA has previously ruled that cops can't go around checking houses for strange infrared patterns without a warrant (grow operations). As technology progresses, it will become easier and easier to peer through walls into your private affairs. This case is good because it says that even though we may be able to do those things, before the police are allowed to, they must show at least a little evidence that the search is reasonable. Note that getting a warrant does not require the same caliber of evidence needed to convict a person. In this case, it came down to an affidavit that the cops searched everywhere and found no child, that a red pubic hair was found in bed (Jackson = red head, girl too young to have them), and Jackson was the only person around. As you can see, getting a warrant was not an onerous task. From that point on, rake in the cost savings all you want. From the case:

If police are not required to obtain a warrant under article I, section 7 before attaching a GPS device to a citizen's vehicle, then there is no limitation on the State's use of these devices on any person's vehicle, whether criminal activity is suspected or not. The resulting trespass into private affairs of Washington citizens is precisely what article I, section 7 was intended to prevent. It should be recalled that one aspect of the infrared thermal imaging surveillance in Young that troubled us was the fact that if its use did not require a warrant, there would be no limitation on the government's ability to use it on any private residence, at any time regardless of whether criminal activity is suspected. Young, 123 Wn.2d at 186-87.

As with infrared thermal imaging surveillance, use of GPS tracking devices is a particularly intrusive method of surveillance, making it possible to acquire an enormous amount of personal information about the citizen under circumstances where the individual is unaware that every single vehicle trip taken and the duration of every single stop may be recorded by the government.

We conclude that citizens of this State have a right to be free from the type of governmental intrusion that occurs when a GPS device is attached to a citizen's vehicle, regardless of reduced privacy expectations due to advances in technology. We hold that under article I, section 7 a warrant is required for installation of these devices.

Re:Hmm (4, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950513)

Actually it was the Supreme Court of the United States in Kyllo V. U.S. that the majority stated:

"Thus, obtaining by sense-enhancing technology any information regarding the home's interior that could not otherwise have been obtained without physical intrusion into a constitutionally protected area constitutes a search"

This can be logically extended to cover any activity not occouring in full public view and to any technological augmentation of the police's natural abilities. That case was arguably the most important one heard by this supreme court because they basically decided that advancement of technology does not give the police an unlimited liscense to observe the populace.

Re:Hmm (5, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950380)

Sure, and the difference between a bottle rocket and an bazooka is "just" a bigger bang.

Some people can justify any invasive use of technology by arguing that exactly the same thing could be accomplished, if only we had a police officer to monitor every citizen, so it must be OK. A funny argument, because nobody in their right mind wants to live in a society where every citizen is shadowed by a cop for no reason.

The question isn't whether police have the "right" to do this; the question is whether "We The People" feel like telling our police forces to use this tactic, or not. There is nobody to tell us (collectively) that we must.

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950604)

We the people don't decide squat. THEY run the show now.

Re:Hmm (5, Informative)

David Price (1200) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950382)

The opinion addresses your question:

[Note: the Court of Appeals is the lower court being overruled here]

The Court of Appeals also held that use of the GPS devices was merely sense augmenting, revealing information that Jackson exposed to public view. The court noted that law enforcement officers could legally follow Jackson on his travels to the ministorage compartment and the two gravesites. We do not agree that use of the GPS devices to monitor Mr. Jackson's travels merely equates to following him on public roads where he has voluntarily exposed himself to public view.

It is true that an officer standing at a distance in a lawful place may use binoculars to bring into closer view what he sees, or an officer may use a flashlight at night to see what is plainly there to be seen by day. However, when a GPS device is attached to a vehicle, law enforcement officers do not in fact follow the vehicle. Thus, unlike binoculars or a flashlight, the GPS device does not merely augment the officers' senses, but rather provides a technological substitute for traditional visual tracking. Further, the devices in this case were in place for approximately two and one-half weeks. It is unlikely that the sheriff's department could have successfully maintained uninterrupted 24-hour surveillance throughout this time by following Jackson. Even longer tracking periods might be undertaken, depending upon the circumstances of a case. We perceive a difference between the kind of uninterrupted, 24-hour a day surveillance possible through use of a GPS device, which does not depend upon whether an officer could in fact have maintained visual contact over the tracking period, and an officer's use of binoculars or a flashlight to augment his or her senses.

posting without reading? (4, Interesting)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950510)

Read the ruling, the court makes it pretty clear.

They even "get it" , that if a warrant isn't required here it isn't required at all, meaning that the government is completely free to put a GPS device on you and everyone else for the purpose of tracking everything you and they do. That is hardly freedom (the ruling even goes into why it would infringe freedom) and so the warrant is required.

Re:Hmm (1)

David Price (1200) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950530)

Just thought of something else. Even if you don't see an intrinsic difference between the GPS tracker and a 24-hour police tail, the GPS still has more functionality that makes it harder to justify as an investigatory measure that should be available without a warrant.

A police officer tailing you without a warrant may not follow you onto private property where he does not have permission to go. If you turn into the driveway of your thousand-acre ranch that's surrounded by vision-obscuring terrain like hills or trees, he cannot follow in order to see whether you're going to the ranch house or the isolated spot where they think the body or drugs or whatever are hidden.

The GPS tracker, however, will blithely continue to broadcast your coordinates, giving the police more information about your movements than our hypothetical, Constitutionally sound tail cop would be able to learn.

The only way to bring a remedy to this situation would be to have a database encompassing everywhere the suspect might possibly go, dividing space into points our tailing cop might be able to see from a public vantage point and points he would not be able to see. The information that the tracker emitted when the suspect was in protected areas would have to be thrown out before anyone with the investigation could view the GPS logs. This would restore the GPS tracker to the capacity of an infinitely skilled police tail who nonetheless respects the suspect's privacy rights.

It should be clear that the above scheme is utterly ridiculous and could never work. And because such a scheme is the only means for safeguarding the rights of a suspect when he goes onto private property, the GPS tracker may not be used without a warrant at all.

Re:Hmm (5, Insightful)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950566)

what IS the difference between using a GPS device to track someone and just following him around?

Its like the difference between Junk Mail and Spam.

It costs quite a bit of money to send junk mail, so there is a natural limiter on how much is sent. Moreover, its traceable so folks sending junk mail don't get too egregious with fraud.

Spam on the other hand, is mostly fraudulent and because its cheap to generate, it arrives in an unmanageable deluge.

Tailing someone is expensive. You have to have an officer or two in their own vehicle. You also can't do a whole lot of it... Its conspicuous. Folks notice, wonder what the cops are up to, and start asking questions.

The GPS device is comparativly cheap. Once installed, you can passively watch a person's comings and goings for months. And it doesn't stick out like a cop car does. If they don't need a warrant, what's to stop them from tracking every person who looks at them cross-eyed? And if you seem to spend time at an odd location, well, that's a place the cops should check out, now isn't it?

The caselaw has a more pragmatic viewpoint: without a warrant, look but don't touch. The moment you want to attach or open or do anything like that, you need a warrant.

Sadly, this means that the automated floating police cameras from the sci fi movies would be A-OK for use without a warrant.

From the ruling (1)

http (589131) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950616)

BIG difference. from the text of the ruling:
The court noted that allowing use of such radio transmitters would mean that 'individuals must more readily assume that they are the objects of government scrutiny' noting that commentators 'have observed that freedom may be impaired as much, if not more so, by the threat of scrutiny as by the fact of scrutiny.'

Civil liberties? (0)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950262)

The liberty to break the law?

That's not a liberty I'm aware of.

No one wants to be tracked, but that's not what we're arguing here. GPS is publicly available information, just like court records and property deeds. The judge is making a completely arbitrary distinction and is wrong.

Re:Civil liberties? (5, Insightful)

Igmuth (146229) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950345)

Ummm.. what are you talking about? "GPS is publicly available information..."

What does that mean in this context? They're not just sitting there with a handheld reciver getting a signal from the sats. They actually placed a GPS reciever ON the guy's car.
This is a step past putting a bumper beeper on the car and following him from a distance with it(which requires a warrent AFAIK). This enabled them to let him drive for a few days, and then they could retrive the device and download all his trips.

Mind you, I think this is a very good use of technology, as long as it is regulated by warrents(as was decided).

Re:Civil liberties? (4, Insightful)

caitsith01 (606117) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950362)

"the liberty to break the law"

This is a totally facetious argument. You can justify any excess by making stupid laws and then saying that 'liberty' doesn't extend to allowing people to break the law.

In fact, the liberty to break the law is essential. If you have no choice about the matter, you're not really being good, just controlled. People shouldn't commit crimes because they don't want to commit crimes, not because the police have a tracking implant placed in everyone's head at birth to monitor their thoughts and actions.

Furthermore, I don't see how the judge is making an arbitrary distinction. What is the difference between this and asking for a wiretap or search warrant?

Re:Civil liberties? (1)

RevSmiley (226151) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950377)

No what the court said was that the use of GPS over the length of time in this case would have been illegal without a warrant. The procsecution was making a smart ass comment. That fact is moot in as the police had a warrant. But the court said without one it was the same as tailing a suspect around for 2 weeks. A major investement of time if a real tail was used with real cops doing the tail. The court was saying if it's that important get a warrent and not just to be shopping for data you can base a crime prosceution on just on speculation.

As a side note when have you ever heard of a regular court not rubber stamping request for a search warrent? If you ask for one you will get one. Not getting a search warrant is not a problem for the cops. Being lazy and violating peoples civil rights are a problem for the cops.

The guy in this case was a sick bastard who killed his own 9 year old daughter. The GPS data was an element in his conviction. Good thing they got the warrant as they should have.

Re:Civil liberties? (3, Interesting)

dorko (89725) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950426)

That fact is moot in as the police had a warrant.
BZZT! Wrong answer.

The officers installed the GPS transponder under a "warrant authorizing a search of the vehicles for blood, hair, body fluids, fibers." [] Maybe I missed that lecture in my E/M fields class, but what part of the GPS signals are made up of blood, hair, body fluids or fibers?

Other than that, I agree he is a sick bastard and I'm glad the court upheld the conviction.

Re:Civil liberties? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950439)

In order for them to be able to search the car, they have to know where the car is. The GPS lets them know.

The permission to track the car is implicit in the warrant.

Re:Civil liberties? (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950545)

The police already had access to the vehicle--it had been impounded on the basis of the first warrant. During the course of this first search, the GPS tracking device was installed.

As the installation was subsequent to the execution of the first warrant, it could not have been a necessary prerequisite.

Re:Civil liberties? (1)

RevSmiley (226151) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950612)

In short they had a warrant. Without the warrant it would have been illegal. This is what the court stated at least from what the NYT article I read almost 24 hours agos said. The DA said one was not required. The Court said yes it was but since they had one it was a moot point.

Re:Civil liberties? (1)

wrathcretin (693632) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950564)

gps on cars? this should be great for avis rent a car. "In town on business? Need to dump a few bodies in the woods? Go Avis!"

Re:Civil liberties? (1)

shepd (155729) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950527)

The difference between a free society and a dictatorship is that in a free society you have the freedom to break a law and pay for it. In a dictatorship, you're never given the chance to get that far.

Well integrated product but not perfect (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950271)

"I have had the iQue 3600 for over a week and have taken several trips with it ranging from a few miles to over 300 miles long. In most cases, the iQue 3600 can be relied on to give you correct directions to your destination. However the map database does occasionally show its quirks. On at least two occasions, I was advised to take a particular road but the displayed name was incorrect even though the actual direction to the destination was, as it turned out later, correct." - Amazon []

Your Friendly Neighborhood Product Placement Troll

Oops! (-1, Troll)

endx7 (706884) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950293)

Oops! Gotta have a warrant to use your eyes to locate the suspect!

Re:Oops! (2, Insightful)

anagama (611277) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950403)

Bzzzt. Read the case.

Where a law enforcement officer is able to detect something at a lawful vantage point through his or her senses, no search occurs under article I section 7. ... '{W}hat is voluntarily exposed to the general public and observable without the use of enhancement devices from an unprotected area is not considered part of a person's private affairs.' ... The court has also affirmed as constitutional searches involving sense-enhancing devices such as binoculars or a flashlight, allowing police to see more easily what is open to public view. ... 'However, a substantial and unreasonable departure from a lawful vantage point, or a particularly intrusive method of viewing, may constitute a search.' ... Thus, where police used an infrared thermal device to detect heat distribution patterns within a home that were not detectable by the naked eye or other senses, the surveillance was a particularly intrusive means of observation that exceeded allowable limits under article I, section 7.

citations omitted for readability purposes

How could this be enforced? (5, Interesting)

revividus (643168) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950297)

What would prevent using the GPS without a warrant, and simply not crediting its use?

OTOH, do I want the police to have to wait to get a warrant before they can use this technology to trace, say, an actual violent criminal?

It's not something I've given a lot of thought to, I admit, but it seems the better this sort of technology gets, the more difficult it will become to legislate how it is used.

Re:How could this be enforced? (4, Insightful)

stevezero (620090) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950314)

> OTOH, do I want the police to have to wait to get a warrant before they can use this technology to trace, say, an actual violent criminal? Yes, you do. Warrants require at least PROBABLE CAUSE to be shown to an independent magistrate. Warrants (in theory) keep the police out of the average joe's hair, and doesn't allow them to use GPS on YOU. I'm all in favor of this ruling. Technology may change, but the basic rights and freedoms that we enjoy don't.

Re:How could this be enforced? (4, Insightful) (142825) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950340)

What would prevent using the GPS without a warrant, and simply not crediting its use?

That would come from investigations. If they have information about something, then you as the defense, will have to determine where the information came from and if they broke the law.

OTOH, do I want the police to have to wait to get a warrant before they can use this technology to trace, say, an actual violent criminal?

An accused violent criminal. Keep in mind, this is happening before the guilt is determined.

Re:How could this be enforced? (3, Insightful)

caitsith01 (606117) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950353)

Um... how is that different to using a phone tap and not crediting its use, or any one of a number of other surveillence investigative techniques?

"an actual violent criminal" - just make sure you don't put the cart before the horse. It's way to easy to say that the police should have every power to deal with 'actual' criminals, but no-one should be treated as guilty until after they have been to trial. There is an immense danger in implicitly removing the presumption of innocence by granting the police unchecked discretionary powers they would traditionally need to show good reasons to a judge to use.

Re:How could this be enforced? (1)

yintercept (517362) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950547)

do I want the police to have to wait to get a warrant before they can use this technology to trace, say, an actual violent criminal?
With rapid communications, I suspect time it takes to get a warrant will decrease to a point where getting a warrant will take about as long as a technical support call.

Uhmmm... okay (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950321)

Do they need a warrant before they have the right to simply observe a suspect? I admit I don't know for sure, but I'm betting that they don't.

If the police couldn't use GPS for whatever reason, they'd just have someone around to tail them everywhere anyways. Using GPS is just using technology in place of someone actually being there to follow the person. I fail to see why they'd need any more of a warrant to use a GPS to track a suspect than a warrant to monitor someone.

Trespass (3, Insightful)

maroberts (15852) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950420)

The simple reason, as other posters have pointed out, is attachment of a device to a person or his possessions requires some form of interference with those possessions or the person.

Anything which involves intrusion should require a warrant.

Re:Uhmmm... okay (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950536)

Read the ruling they specifically dealt with that issue.

Re:Uhmmm... okay (1)

RevSmiley (226151) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950595)

I am pretty sure if the cops followed you around 24/7 for 2 and a half week with no proable cause it would be considered harassmant. If a private citizen did it I am sure it would be stalking. So gettign a warrant demonstrates proable cause other wise it's just harassment.

Before we get carried away (5, Insightful)

caitsith01 (606117) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950323)

What we're talking about here is the police actually going to your car and placing a tracker on it. It seems to me that there is a significant difference between this and, say, using an inbuilt navigation system in your car to track you.

My view is that, whereas the first option might be ok in some circumstances with a warrant, the real danger to liberties is when the second option starts to become viable. If the police are investigating a specific crime, and they have evidence that leads them to suspect you, then they will be able to convince a judge to let them track you and gain a warrant, which is pretty benign so long as proper processes are followed and there is enough transparency to monitor their activities. What would be scary would be if they could just check up on anyone, any time, because we all have GPS in our cars or phones and implanted in our brains.

What will be interesting will be to see how the two scenarios are construed by the courts: is it a more serious matter to track someone using their own GPS than it is to place a tracker on their vehicle, or vice-versa? I hope the bar is set higher for the use of someone's own GPS device, or at least set to the same height. It is all to easy to envisage a police policy arguing that there is no harm is using the GPS system to 'check' where people are without their knowledge - kinda how the compulsory location identification technology in phones is justified because it lets emergency services find idiots who phone 911 and then fail to give their location. Once there is some degree of ambiguity the system is open to all kinds of abuse. Therefore I think the best solution would be for a warrant to be required for any kind of tracking to occur.

It's great to see the law actually adapt to a new scenario with some degree of success, anyway.

Re:Before we get carried away (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950528)

Actually the police using your vehicles navigation system (such as Onstar) would possibly be more protected. They would have to obtain a warrant to get the information, and even then there are possible fifth amendmant grounds, can you sign up for a service which may tend to incriminate you without your knowledge?

Tracking Stolen Merchandise (1)

yintercept (517362) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950570)

I suspect that the biggest use for GPS, and similar tracking technology, is for people to track stolen goods. In such cases the tracking device is in the goods. I understand that the courts look favorably on this use of technology.

Seems to me that this story only applies to cases of police intruding to install devices. This sounds quite reasonable to me, although I admit I can see reasons why the police would want to be able to install a tracking device when they do not have time to get a warrant.

For example, imagine if the police were in a high speed chase. Rather than risking bystanders, if the police had a good picture of the driver, then tagged the car with a tracking device and let the car go. In such cases, the tracking device is not really gathering evidence but simplifying the act of catching a person who committed a crime.

IANAL, but I could see a court deciding that the use of such technologies to track suspects is okay, but the actual evidence gathered by the devices are not permitted in court as evidence.

(free reg. required, yadda, YADDA) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950327)


Yadda's are plural, you can't have one without - AT LEAST - an other. Preferably they appear in triplets: "Yadda, Yadda, Yadda."

It's Probably Worth Noting (4, Insightful)

Farley Mullet (604326) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950341)

The controlling law here is the Washington State Constitution, not the United States Constitution. Indeed, from the decision:
Jackson does not claim or suggest in his petition for review that the Fourth Amendment was violated. Accordingly, there is no issue before us under the Fourth Amendment.
So the force of this decision ends at the border of Washington State.

Re:It's Probably Worth Noting (1)

dvdeug (5033) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950402)

So the force of this decision ends at the border of Washington State.

That, strictly speaking, is true. But having this case on hand when arguing or deciding similar cases elsewhere could help convince judges who might have had a harder time without any precedent at all.

Re:It's Probably Worth Noting (2, Insightful)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950500)

Under common law (like the US has, and 49 states), legal precedents are a basis for the law.

So technically, the influence of this decision ends in the courtroom - no law was changed, after all. However, this case should help establish a precedent. Other courts with similar cases are likely to go by the same reasoning. Police won't use GPS tracking devices, because they know judges will rule against it if it comes to court. Eventually, unless the law changes, the precedent becomes the rule.

I guess she would rather waste tax payers money (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950350)

"The devices in this case were in place for approximately 2-1/2 weeks," Madsen wrote. "It is unlikely that the sheriff's department could have successfully maintained uninterrupted 24-hour surveillance throughout this time by following Jackson."

The only thing preventing the police from following someone 24 hours a day for 2 1/2 weeks is the cost. It would be quite expensive to allocate a group of officers for 2 1/2 weeks. Could it be done, sure why not. Its not like its hard to follow a large metal object.

So, instead the police decide to attach an inexpensive gps tracking device to his car which a single officer can review from time to time and have other officers follow up on. If anything this is LESS intrusive since the police are not watching the suspect's moves 24hours a day, they are simply watching where his car goes.

gg judge

Re:I guess she would rather waste tax payers money (1)

caitsith01 (606117) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950416)

Ah, the old 'money is more important than process or freedoms' argument.

Never get tired of that one. I wonder how much money the US is saving by keeping those pesky alleged unproven possibly unlawful combatants locked away at Camp X-Ray, free from the money squandering foolishness of the US Courts who might want to accord them pricey and unneccessary rights?

Of course, ultimately it would be cheaper for the police to just shoot every suspect. About 10 cents for the bullet, no pesky paperwork or trial, everybody wins, taxpayers rejoice! This policy has been implemented successfully in LA I believe. You could even make a few more bucks by selling the organs of the deceased to the privatised health system.

Business plan:

1. Remove all due process from law enforcement
2. ???
3. Profit!


Re:I guess she would rather waste tax payers money (1)

mod_parent_down (692943) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950482)

Valid point.

But the argument is whether or not you need a warrant to attach the device, not whether or not it should ever be done.

GPS is a simple way to do 24/7 surveillance detail on a suspect if a judge says so. Otherwise, it's an invasion of privacy. Makes sense to me.

Re:I guess she would rather waste tax payers money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950521)

Think about it this way... with the requirement for a warrent, a cop can't use some nifty technology to track some random person (ie, say, his wife who he thinks is cheating). Obviously he can't use the police force to track someone, because people would start to ask questions, "Hey Dick, how come you're spending thousands of taxpayer dollars tracking your wife every day?"

This isn't 'costing extra money' in the sense that more men would be used, it just makes it so that procedure is maintained, and warrents are issued.

Personally, I wouldn't want some cop 'checking out' some expensive taxpaid technology to stalk his girlfriend or something. We're paying for the technology, and you're going to use it right, respecting the privacy of your citizens.

Good. (1)

pr0ntab (632466) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950360)

The prosecutors contended this was no more intrusive than having an officer tail a suspect, for which no warrant is needed.

But they assume that just because you pay taxes to drive a car, they can go up to it and modify it without your knowledge as part of a criminal investigation? That is irresponsible, and it breaks (some amendment, sleepy, can't remember). ^_^;;;

Tampering with property - tresspass? (4, Insightful)

caitsith01 (606117) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950381)

I was wondering if this might actually constitute tresspass to property, as they are messing with your car without your knowledge or consent and without necessarily believing that you are guilty of anything.

The police do not, for instance, have the ability to enter your home without your consent in the absence of a warrant, so how is this different? If an ordinary citizen did it they would be guilty of tresspass for sure.

Re:Tampering with property - tresspass? (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950430)

In this case, the police had impounded the cars and while impounded, obtained a warrant to place the devices. They had to do the same thing for the GPSs as they would to search his home. So this is a good decision.

Re:Tampering with property - tresspass? (1)

caitsith01 (606117) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950444)

Hmm, guess I should RTFA :)

Still, it's an interesting question. Is, for instance, it tresspass to use someone's own GPS system in their car or phone against them? Is it tresspass to attach something to their car without their knowledge or consent?

Re:Tampering with property - tresspass? (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950473)

The second question is fairly easy for us regular citizens - even if you can't call it "tresspass", it sure would count as "car prowling". Lot's of kids get a few months in juvie for that! ;-)

Someday, that first question will come up. Rest assured, it will be in a case where the facts are horrid like they are here. The whole case will hinge on whether using that information was OK, and as a result, we'll get a bad decision which says that if you voluntarily purchase one these devices, you have put your GPS coordinates in the public sphere. At least that's where I'll wager my 2 cents.

Re:Tampering with property - tresspass? (1)

caitsith01 (606117) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950495)

So perhaps what we need is for someone to argue it in a less important case, even where it's not necessarily crucial. I attended a talk for lawyers and legal academics by a 5th Circuit SC judge and he basically urged people to bring cases before the courts when important principles were at play. He said something like, "I'd love to give an opinion on that, but I can't until you bring it before me!"

In other words, he wants to protect liberties and the citizen against the state (this was in the context of other comments in this vein), but he can't if noone brings the cases and makes the arguments.

People criticise the courts, but I am thankful for them all the time. Even 'conservative' judges like Thomas tend to put fairness, legal progress and true justice ahead of politicking and ideology most of the time.

Blocking the GPS signals (3, Funny)

narratorDan (137402) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950367)

When ever I commit a crime, I would just search my car and set up a system that turns my car's frame into a big antenna broadcasting static on the same frequency as the GPS system.


Re:Blocking the GPS signals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950438)

... then I would go on the net and hack the chief of police's bank account and use the proceeds to travel to bermuda on a high-tech stealth ship I would build from coathangers and tin foil, whilst at the same time implicating him in a corruption scandal by hacking into the reuters press feed.

Next I would commandeer a military satellite and hold the world hostage, demanding that they hand over all the gold in Fort Knox or else I will reduce Washington DC to rubble.

Finally I will have my weak human body replaced with cybernetic parts and use my instant mastery of technology to rule the universe!!!

Re:Blocking the GPS signals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950451)

Sir, the odds of you successfully completing this plan are 3720 to 1.

Re:Blocking the GPS signals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950477)

Business plan:

1. Use elaborate technologically improbable plan to escape after committing crimes
2. ???
3. Profit!

Not about them using it (4, Informative)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950374)

It's really about the tracking data obtained being admissible in court.

So there's a murder, a body dumped in the woods. The cop finds out through a GPS device on your car that your vehicle drove from the victims apartment to the woods right after the murder.

Without a warrant to obtain that data, the judge throws this evidence out. Otherwise it would be a violation of your rights. There's very little a cop can do to you without a warrant, they can't step onto your property, peer through your windows to see whats going on.

A more extreme example you'd see on "Law and Order", I suppose.

Potheads who grow their own are paranoid about cops patrolling the neighbourhoods with heat-sensing cameras, looking for the "hot" houses - which would be a tip that there's some lamps running in there. Or watching power bills for extra usage. They can't - they've tried and judges have thrown it out. You need a warrant first. Public property is fair game, though, and they can go through your trash once it hits the public curve.

Anyhow, that's getting off topic. Point is, this is no shock. Without a warrant a cop is limited to what he sees in public property, he can't go onto your property or through your car without permission.

With exceptions (that they love to exploit) like they can search a trunk of a car if there's a safety concern. They like to pull over suspected dealers, play "hey now I think your exhaust might be leaking, we need to look in the trunk for your safety!"... Though a good lawyer chews such actions up in court.

By and large, Judges are very pro-citizen and very anti-cop. They were all attorneys or DAs and know the games they play, and aren't impressed.

What are we talking about again? Oh yeah. GPS. Dont worry about the local LEOs slipping one into your pocket and watching you. Thats federal black helicopter shit (and if you get the feds on your case all bets are off)

Re:Not about them using it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950418)

A cop can walk up to your window and look in. It's legal. He can get a warrant or even break in and arrest you most places if he sees something illegal going on or some type of contraband. They might not get a coniction but it's legal. As far as judges being pro citizen you are rolling the dice there most places they are all to chummy with the cops and procsecution being elected to office.

Re:Not about them using it (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950448)

No they cant go on your property unless called or they have 'probable cause', like they hear screaming or something. They certainly cant come inside without permission or a warrant. I've had the cops show up to parties because the neighbours bitched about the music. I've had them ask if they can come in and look around. I've told them to pound sand. I've been pulled over and asked if they can look in the trunk. Same deal, they can look in "plain sight" - if you have a shotgun and a bong on your back seat you're fucked, but they cant go into the trunk without a warrant, or again "probable cause" like the safety copout I mentioned before.

He can walk down the sidewalk, and if he can see from there that you're cutting up a bunch of pot plants or whatever, then he can easily get a warrant.

Why do you think HomeSec wanted mailmen to do the snooping? They're allowed on your property to deliver the mail.

And DA's and Judges, while "chummy" keep them on a tight, tight leash, because they know a good defense attorney will rip them a new one if they forget to dot an i or cross a t. They hate nothing more than putting all the time and effort and money into building a case, then having it thrown out because Deputy Dawg forgot the warrant or stuttered reading miranda, or asked you questions without a lawyer, etc etc..

Re:Not about them using it (1)

RevSmiley (226151) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950579)

Tell that to the guy next door to my Moms house who got busted because they came in her yard and saw his pot plant in his house. They had to look over a 6 foot fence to see in his window. They had to be in my moms yard to do that.

The bust was legal. He want to jail. This was not a area accessable from the sidewalk it was behind two locked gates.

They were not called and had no independent cause to suspect this guy as he was a Prof at the local JC.

You are living in a dream world.

Ruling only applies to Washington State (2, Informative)

Derling Whirvish (636322) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950379)

This ruling was by the Washington State Supreme Court and only applies to warrants issued in the State of Washington. "There is no controlling legal authority" (as Gore once said) in the other 49 states -- so be aware (that is if you are doing anything that might cause the police to want to track you).

Your car already has a tracking device anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950383)

They are called license plates, they are just old school technology.

I didn't RTFA, but they got a warrant first. (2, Insightful)

crapolene (602426) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950385)

I live in Spokane where this creep killed his daughter. The cops got a warrant before they put the tracking device on his vehicle, just in case.

I'm pretty sure the WA State Supreme Court ruling was that they have to get a warrant before they put a GPS tracking device somewhere.

But I bet if somebody was a "terrorist" we can bypass warrants and judges. Thanks Patriot Acts One and Two!

Re:I didn't RTFA, but they got a warrant first. (1)

crapolene (602426) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950429)

I didn't read the whole slashdot synopsis either. It clearly states the cops got a warrant. I suck. I guess I was all excited because I live in the same town where Brad Jackson killed his daughter.

Re:I didn't RTFA, but they got a warrant first. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950446)

I used to live in the 'kan. You know what they say - it ain't exactly nowhere ... but you can see it from there.

Re:I didn't RTFA, but they got a warrant first. (1)

Urox (603916) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950523)

This guy was way more than a creep. He should have gotten the death penalty IMO. He makes up a fraudulent story about his child missing, he kills her and then makes up a story that she overdosed and that he thought he'd be suspect because of his wife's "dissappearance," and he kills her on the grounds that the girl and his girlfriend don't get along and so he removes the visible "obstruction." People like this should be taken out, not given 672 months in prison with possibility of parole. I don't want someone stupid enough to lie about his child's death (when the coroner can figure it out) out on the street ever again. I wouldn't be surprised if he *did* kill his wife with the crap he tried to pull.

Judge OK..RTFA! (5, Insightful)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950388)

The cops PLANTED a GPS tracker on the guys car to keep tabs on him at all times. Fortunately this time, and properly, they got a court's permission first. All the judge did was verify that it did indeed require a warrant for that activity.

When you realize that most new cars have GPS as well as cellphones, the requirement of the State to get permission to aquire the data BEFORE THE FACT is extremely important. After all, without such oversite the abuse is enourmous. Mess with the local deputy's daughter and a dead body just might be found near where you made out last night! Get the idea. You were there for way to long, so you must have commited the crime, right? Unrestricted access opens up all new ways of setting honest people up. There's nothing special about granting GPS for someone who's already a suspect and you would search their house or grounds. It's only 15 minutes of paperwork to protect our freedom!

And that's really the issue here. With the laughablely low standards for warrants these days [in car faxes, phone-a-judge, patriot? act] , is there really any reason NOT to simply follow the few procedures we have left? We expect tripliate paperwork for the simplest screw on a FAA certified aircraft, how much dicipline should we expect from a man with a GUN comming after ME or YOU! We might be KILLED too!

Re:Judge OK..RTFA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950421)

Cops are probably the most highly scrutinized government employees, because they're the most visible.

So while there have been a handful of jackwads on the forces (there's always a handful of assholes in any group), they really have very little power to do anything.

So chill and save the paranoid shit for another cause. Cops basically hand out traffic tickets.

Re:Judge OK..RTFA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950562)

I am always very skeptical of the police.

You state.
"So while there have been a handful of jackwads on the forces (there's always a handful of assholes in any group), they really have very little power to do anything."

I don't agree with that. The "Jackwads" usually get promoted and are running the show. They have a us against them attitude as in cops against civilians. Also knowing that there are jackwads in their ranks how many cops do anything to get rid of them?

I think cops should need a warrant to take a dump let alone violate someones privacy or spy on them.

In this case the guy was a POS who killed his own 9 year old daughter so he could marry a woman the kid didn't like. So we are lucky they did the right thing. Will I count on that everytime? No.

The police are not your friend. You should avoid talking with them and having any contact with them. Never invite them into your home or talk idly with them. They have no reason to know anything about you or what you are doing 99% of the time. It's better to be safe then the victim of some "jackwad"

Before you think I don't know what I am talking about I have 2 years of police science and several state certifications in law enforcement. I have worked around these people. 75% of these peole are not your friends and are not deserving of your trust. Many don't even support the constutition they consider the bill of rights in their way.

Hmmm... (0)

Viceice (462967) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950392)

The article specifically mentions the Global Positioning System (GPS). So what if in a few years time, cops use Galileo? Then, if the ruling blankets satellite systems altogether, what about radio frequency pingers?

Hell, if everything electronic is banned altogether, why not attach a canister of UV florescent dye under the car and follow the trail left behind with a UV light and goggles?

Re:Hmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950533)

last time i checked, newspapers weren't legally binding documents.

Transmitters for everybody! WhooHoo! (1)

Mulletproof (513805) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950395)

I have to draw the line when the police move from using passive survellience and tracking to active transmitting devices on a person who has yet to be proven guilty. They want to prove something, fine. Do the footwork. Gather the evidence. Maybe even tail them if in some cases, but you do not touch the them or their property until you can prove them guilty. In theis case, I have absolutely no problem with the warrent requirement. That is unless you don't mind the police breaking into your apartment to isntall bugs because they suspect you guilty of something...

Whoa. (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950399)

It freaks my brain that they WEREN'T required before. Somewhere in Washington there is a guy with a reciver capable of plotting every stupid thing you do in a day. If he's got a floor plan of your house, he can tell how many times a day you take a leak.

Any kind of serious survelliance without a warrant...The only possible reason you'd want to be able to do that is so you could track people for whom a judge would refuse to give a warrant. I had my property searched WITH a warrant which had been issued because I TALKED to someone who was indicted in a crime. Guess that was too much bother for old Ashcroft. Bastard. I think he should be required to submit AT ALL TIMES to every violation of civil liberties outlined in the so-called Patriot Act...especially the one about "enemies of the state" being held in Cuba with no trial, forever. I think the founding fathers would have named him an enemy of the state.

Re:Whoa. (1)

MadAnthony02 (626886) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950480)

It freaks my brain that they WEREN'T required before

From the sounds of the article, there was no prior rulings on the issue either way. This is just the first time the issue has ever come before the courts, and possibly one of the first times the technology has been used in a case like this.

And it's state, not federal, so you can't blame Ashcroft.

Sense and sensibility (2, Insightful)

mao che minh (611166) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950404)

More like "score one for sensibility". GPS is merely another means of tracking one's proverbial pray - as is celluar phone transmissions and web server logs. It is only fitting that a judge realized this plain and obvious fact.

What is really interesting is that law enforcement officials really did "just suppose" that it was their right to use this technology to build a case without restrictions, authorization, or even explination.

Re:Sense and sensibility (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950456)

Actually, I think the cops actedd appropriatly in this case because before they attached the devices, they went to a judge and got permission (a warrant) to do so. That is in fact the reason this evidence was not tossed out.

Re:Sense and sensibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6950470)

"...making it possible to acquire an enormous amount of personal information about the citizen under circumstances where the individual is unaware that every single vehicle trip taken and the duration of every single stop may be recorded by the government,"

The police's warrant only involved the installation of the device, and the judge that granted the warrant was naive enough to think that such a warrant could justify what such a move actually entails. Both parties acted inappropriately in this case. It was poorly thought out, didn't factor in a person's inherient rights, and led to a conviction because of that.

spot the embedded FUD (3, Insightful)

FearUncertaintyDoubt (578295) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950432)

But he said the court had expanded privacy rights for criminal suspects.

The prosecutor had to add that in to crank up the fear level. OOO! Those bad criminals now have privacy rights. What would be a more accurate statement is, the court had expanded privacy rights for all citizens. But, of course, that doesn't get the soccer moms worried enough to ask for a repeal of the Bill of Rights.

And the argument that the cops can freely place a GPS on your car and track you because it's just like tailing you, is flawed. A much closer analogy would be to say that they can secretly place a bug on your clothing because that would be the same as following you around listening to your conversation.

Patriot Act (3, Insightful)

gripdamage (529664) | more than 11 years ago | (#6950529)

Score one for civil liberties....the Supreme Court of Washington state ruled today that a warrant is required by police to use GPS tracking devices to track suspects.

Which brings us to the Patriot Act, which makes this ruling totally moot if you get some feds involved that can mutter the t-word. As in "Oh yeah. I almost forgot judge that we thought he might be like a terrorist and stuff, so no warrant required." Although why even explain it to a judge when a military tribunal will do? But why bother with a tribunal when you can just hold the person indefinitely without ever charging them?

But it sure is a relief to have this one on the books. If we ever get the constitution back, it might even matter.
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