Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals issued a ruling restricting police official use of GPS devices for monitoring purposes.
The Defendant was the target of a drug investigation based on information gained from informants. When police heard that the Defendant borrowed another person’s vehicle to make “drug runs” to Phoenix, police secretly and without a warrant attached a GPS (Global Positioning System) device to the car without the knowledge of the Defendant or the owner of the car. Using information gained from the GPS device, the police were able to gather evidence resulting in Defendant’s arrest.
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches. Seizures and searches without a warrant are unreasonable on their face unless they fall into specific and well-defined categories (Katz v. U.S., 1967). In this case, it was not disputed that the police did not obtain a warrant to place the device. However, the State argued that because the Defendant did not own the car and was not borrowing the car at the time of installation of the device, the Defendant did not have legal right to contest the “search” because it was not an intrusion upon Defendant’s rights, but the rights of the owner.
The Court, in line with rulings in other state courts, disagreed with the State, indicating that the GPS tracking device was a continuous intrusion upon the rights of the driver. So long as the driver lawfully obtains possession (i.e., by getting permission from the owner to use), the driver has the right to assert a Fourth Amendment violation regarding the GPS.
No one can be certain of the effect this will have on the efficacy of GPS as a police tool in investigations. However, it is clear that as technology advances and police look for ways to use it, the justice system has (and will continue to have) its hands full applying new innovations to existing law.
If you have been charged with a crime, the attorneys and staff at the Prescott Law Group will ensure your representation includes the very latest decisions relating to your charged offense. Schedule an appointment by calling (928) 445-1909.
- Arizona Court of Appeals, Division 1 – State v. Mitchell (April 21, 2014) (AZCourts.gov)
- United States Supreme Court – Katz v. United States (1967) (Justia.com)
- “Police need warrant for GPS tracking, ruling says” – Arizona Daily Star, April 22, 2014 (Howard Fischer)
- “Fourth Amendment: An Overview” – Legal Information Institute (Cornell University)