As an experienced St. Louis criminal defense attorney, I am often giving advice to clients regarding new law enforcement techniques to gather evidence in ongoing investigations. GPS technology is a relatively new technology that has changed the way police and law enforcement track criminals by making easier to follow a person without having to use actual law enforcement officers to do it. Criminal Defense Attorneys have been arguing that use of GPS devices on cars to track movements is a violation of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
As a case before the U.S. Supreme Court just this week highlighted, GPS can also be used by police to help track a persons movements. (See U.S. v. Jones, 10-1259) The Supreme Court ruled that police have to get a proper search warrant before using GPS technology to track criminal suspects.
The Court ruled just this week on a case involving a nightclub owner in Washington, D.C., Antoine Jones, who had a GPS tracking device attached to his Jeep. As a result of the tracking, law enforcement officials were able to gather evidence which linked him to a house used to stash drugs and money. Jones' movements were monitored for 28 days and he was convicted of conspiring to sell cocaine. A federal appeals court eventually overturned his federal drug conspiracy conviction because police did not have a warrant when they installed the GPS device on his vehicle. What is interesting about the decision is that the Court pointed out that the length of time the GPS device was used crossed the line and became an unreasonable search. Yet, the court was not specific on the length of time that would be an issue.
The same issue has appeared in a St. Louis, Missouri Federal case. Just last month, U.S. Magistrate Judge David Noce ruled that evidence obtained through the use of a GPS tracking device attached to the car of an employee of the St. Louis treasurer's office could be used in court.
At the time, case law suggested that the installation of a tracking device on Fred Robinson's car by FBI agents did not constitute either a "search" or "seizure" under the Fourth Amendment. Judge Noce did point out that the Jones case was before the Supreme Court and that the decision could have an impact.
Robinson, who was indicted in September on one count of wire fraud and seven counts of federal program theft, has been accused of stealing more than $250,000 of public money from a charter school and of taking as much as $175,000 from a no-show job in Treasurer Larry C. Williams' office. Robinson's lawyers said Monday that they would move to file a new motion in light of the Jones decision. U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan claimed that the Jones ruling did not necessarily mean that the GPS evidence gathered in Robinson's case would be tossed out and that it would ultimately depend on how the High Court's decision is interpreted.
This issue is not going to go away anytime soon as technology is becoming a basic part of everyday life. We have GPS tracking on our cell phones and even some cars have it built in. The Supreme Court is just beginning to deal with the many fourth amendment issues with technology that will arise in the coming years.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in the St. Louis area contact our St. Louis Criminal Defense Attorneys today at (314) 863-0500.
Source: "Supreme Court rules warrant needed for GPS tracking," , published at Stltoday.com
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