Today the AP reported that the US Supreme Court will take up the case to decide whether the use of GPS devices violates the fourth amendment to the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches. Apparently, the police secretly installed a GPS device in a man's car and he was subsequently convicted for operating a cocaine distribution ring. The conviction was overturned on appeal, and the US Justice Dept. has now appealed to the US Supreme Court. What do you think? If you are from a country outside of the US, do you know what's legal there?
If there is no suspicion and no warrant, I think it might be wrong to do phone taps or instal gps tracking devices. However, when people's lives are at stake, is there a need for so much paper work? What about installing cctv? In a way, it is infringing on privacies as well. Would those be banned as well?
Sam - http://www.cctvdirect.co.uk
If there is probable cause, then a court will issue a warrant, and it will be kept secret until the case is brought. You say "good citizens have nothing to worry about". Well, if an armed man is permitted to stop and search me just because he happens to be in the mood - or stop my attractive wife or even more attractive niece - I'm worried. I wouldn't want arbitrary strangers to have that power over us, and being a policeman doesn't make someone a saint.
To anyone quoting the usual "innocent people have nothing to hide", I ask: When you go to the bathroom, do you close the door? Even if there's nobody else home? If so - and I'm betting you do - what are you hiding?
General surveillance over a public area is like posting a policeman there; surveillance over a private area (like a store) by the area's own owners is the owner's own business (though areas like bathrooms or changing rooms tilt the expectation of "privacy" back away from the owner to the visitor); but specific individual surveillance by government for no particular reason is exactly the kind of "unreasonable search" envisioned. It's not about warning the suspect, because a warrant for surveillance or wiretapping is still kept confidential. It's about having a process in place to ensure that the questionable things we allow security authorities to do in the interest of general safety are not misused to become oppressive.
I tend to agree with the "warrant" side. OTOH, the point about using a detective to follow a suspect has some merit, also. In the end, it seems that it comes down to whether or not the police have a reasonable suspicion that a person is a criminal. This has to be based upon some kind of evidence that a judge could examine and, based upon that evidence, issue a warrant for wiretapping, GPS tracking, or whatever is necessary. What has happened is that technology has made it so much easier to observe/track people that we end up with these kinds of questions.
BTW - if you started following a Supreme Court justice everywhere he/she went, I would expect that you would get a visit from the police. We (unfortunately, in many cases) entrust a certain authority to government agencies, on the idea that if the observe/follow/wiretap a person that there is a good reason for it. A private citizen does not enjoy that kind of status, and is therefore under some restriction as to what they can do, compared to law enforcement officials. This whole issue has a LOT of grey in it!
The idea that this does not require a warrant seems to be based on the rather specious argument that anyone could attach a GPS tracker to a suspect's car, therefore the suspect had no reasonable expectation of privacy.
This is nonsense. I guarantee you that if I were to attach GPS trackers to the cars of the Supreme Court Justices that they would have the police arrest me.
If it is illegal for an ordinary citizen to watch you with a given technology then police need to obtain a warrant to do the same search.
The GPS tracking device in question was used on a suspect, not on a randomly selected person. The fact is that the court has become very liberal and can't seem to understand that some actions are parts of crimes. Consider: would it have been legal for a detective to follow that person? IF the police see a possible crime about to be done, is it legal for them to watch? Does the supreme court have any common sense left?
In such cases there is a very thin line between what can be termed as legal and what is illegal. When you have the CCTVs installed in say shops, the activities of any person can be tracked from the CCTV coverage. But a shop owner will be normally discarding all the coverage except the one where he suspects that something is being stolen. If the purpose of installing GPs was to collect evidence how would the police get the required permission beforehand if they do not have the evidence in hand?
this is a case of law, not drug war. the law is a probable cause and a warrant is needed for searching. tracking with a GPS is searching in my opinion. the drug war is a waste of time and money (and lives) and should be dealt with separately.
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