Civil Liberties

Today's Assault on the Fourth Amendment…

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…comes courtesy of the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which has ruled that the government's surreptitious placement of a GPS device on a suspect's car and subsequent tracking of his movement is not a search for Fourth Amendment purposes, and doesn't require a warrant. The court did make some noise about the suspects being shady characters, but refused to require police to show "probable cause," due to the way the government framed its argument.

Other federal circuits have issued different rulings on the use of GPS devices, so it seems like an issue the U.S. Supreme Court might visit. Needless to say, a confirmation of the 7th Circuit ruling would be troubling, particularly given that we're headed for the day when all cars sold in the U.S. will eventually be equipped with GPS.

Wired News adds the punchline:

Bonus terror: wording in the ruling clearly indicates that the judges think that you can track GPS devices using Google Earth.

NEXT: Fill 'Er Up, Terror Free

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  1. I guess their abilities to track you while using your cell phone or with their cameras and facial recognition software or use of your credit cards just wasn’t enough.

    Just think soon will come a day where cops will just pull you over for a search alone. Since the tickets will be automatically sent to your home when the GPS units calculate your going over the speed limit on XYZ Rd. Talk about automated Collecting and Serving.

  2. The 4th Amendment has been a dead letter for a long time. You can sum up current 4th Amendment jurisprudence like this: Outside your home, anything goes.

  3. Have to agree with Troy, this is more clear evidence that there is no hope.

  4. Since it is not a search, does this mean that private citizens can place GPS devices on police cars if they want?

  5. Sam,

    Smart-ass comments like that are the reason cops need to track cars with GPS.

  6. Troy is right. This is not just something that came about overnight. It has been going on for 40+ years. To me this is the darkside of a “living constitution”. The logic is simple if brutal. The founders didn’t know about cars and the Fourth Amendment relates to homes. You have a lowered expectation of privacy in your car, therefore warentless searches are allowed. Then you have the whole line of protective sweep cases that gave the cop a right to search a car for weapons for his “own protection” even if said weapons are in the glove box and said suspect is handcuffed in the police car. Then throw in the idea of de-minimus searches. Basically the cops can bring rover out to sniff your car and see if he sniffs drugs giving them probable cause to search. The end result of all of the 4th Amendment cases has been to pretty much deprive you of any right to privacy in your car. This case, while regretful, is not a surprise and not out of line with the current law on the 4th Amendment.

  7. Over on Utoob (sic) there’s a video by David McElroy that pretty much sums it up.

    “We’re the Government — and You’re Not”
    hier

    here’s his site:
    http://www.davidmcelroy.org

    What if the U.S. government released an “educational video” to teach today’s Americans how to be good citizens?

  8. You can sum up current 4th Amendment jurisprudence like this: Outside your home, anything goes.

    And the inside’s up for grabs.

  9. At least we have given all this authority to the educated and sober institution of law enforcement.

  10. If the cops can put a GPS tracker on my car, am I allowed to take it off if I find it? Seems to me that, without a warrant, I’m under no legal obligation with regards to it, and considering it’s attached to my property, I’d think it’s fair game to remove it.

  11. The removal of the 4th Amendment from our Rights pertains much to your home not just your car. Main problem with the living Constitution is that we have parasites AKA Lawyers hosting off it like a Tick at a dogshow. Sucking us dry and wondering why we are sick and tired afterwards. Shouldn’t searching for an individuals body on planet earth be considered a little excessive without even so much as a warrant? I think so. Where exactly is the Freedom in this so called logic?

    If you find one just take it off and put it on someone else’s car at the mall.

  12. http://www.alibaba.com/catalog/11089227/GPS_GSM_Jammer.html

    Probably not that difficult to come up with a wideband noise emitter yourself, either…

  13. Wait a second. Without a warrant to plant the GPS device wouldn’t it then be trespassing to plant one on a car in the 1st place? Just wondering, I am thinking not because again you might not be at home when they attach it. Still seems like it though, tampering or something of the sort.

  14. And will tampering with all pre-installed GPS devices be considered a violation of the DMCA? Or then in terms of tracking and eavesdropping via cell-phone, will turning those devices off soon become illegal as well?

  15. Dee – I doubt it would be ruled trespassing to place a non-permanent and non-damaging piece of equipment on the outside of the car. As long as it’s on the outside, it’s not much different from a ticket or advertisement stuck under the windshield wiper or something. If they broke into the car to hide it somewhere or opened the trunk or hood or something, I’d think that’s trespassing.

    AndersM – How would tampering with GPS devices be of concern to the DMCA? I haven’t read it, but I wouldn’t expect GPS to be in there, since it’s a copyright act.

  16. If the cops can put a GPS tracker on my car, am I allowed to take it off if I find it? Seems to me that, without a warrant, I’m under no legal obligation with regards to it, and considering it’s attached to my property, I’d think it’s fair game to remove it.

    They’ll probably charge you with destruction of government property.

  17. If the cops can put a GPS tracker on my car, am I allowed to take it off if I find it? Seems to me that, without a warrant, I’m under no legal obligation with regards to it, and considering it’s attached to my property, I’d think it’s fair game to remove it.

    Let’s see, the damage to government property charge might be appropriate. Jamming might be an FCC violation, but I suspect that tinkering in other manners would be hard to detect, or perfectly fine, like obscuring the antenna or focusing the antenna in an odd manner to give incorrect positioning.

  18. “This is On Star, how can I help you?”

    You know, this may not be such a bad thing. Not the ruling, but the coming of EVERY new car in the US being factory equipped with GPS. It will mean that A)everybody will know that it is there, potentially to be used by police and B) there will only be so many manufacturer’s boxes to hack and override. I see a huge black market in GPS disablers.

    Outlaw privacy and only…..

  19. Seems to me that, without a warrant, I’m under no legal obligation with regards to it, and considering it’s attached to my property, I’d think it’s fair game to remove it

    If you find one, have some fun. Take it off and attach it on a taxi.

  20. not that such a device wouldn’t completely suck – but i’d personally rather get a ticket mailed to my home if for no other reason than not sitting through a beratement by some disgruntled deadbeat traffic cop bloated with his authoritaw.

    not that i’ve ever had to sit through that before or anything!

    If you find one, have some fun. Take it off and attach it on a taxi.

    i wouldn’t wish the end result on the taxi driver’s dog.

  21. If you find one, have some fun. Take it off and attach it on a taxi.

    i wouldn’t wish the end result on the taxi driver’s dog.

    Hmm, good point. Put it on a cop car or something with government plates – turnabout is fair play.

  22. You can sum up current 4th Amendment jurisprudence like this: Outside your home, anything goes.

    Yeah, except I would word it like this:

    You can sum up current 4th Amendment jurisprudence like this: Outside your home, anything goes. Inside your home is much the same. As for your home in toto? We’ve got an urban planning department that has a vision for that, too.

  23. They’ll probably charge you with destruction of government property

    Soon to be a pleonasm.

  24. Attaching the unit to a city bus, garbage or recycling truck might be fun.

    John Law doesn’t like one of those doohickeys on his ride, though.

    Squad car locators blocked
    Foil thwarts GPS; some Milwaukee officials angry
    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    Kevin

  25. Eric said:

    Dee – I doubt it would be ruled trespassing to place a non-permanent and non-damaging piece of equipment on the outside of the car. As long as it’s on the outside, it’s not much different from a ticket or advertisement stuck under the windshield wiper or something. If they broke into the car to hide it somewhere or opened the trunk or hood or something, I’d think that’s trespassing.

    And when an non-permanent non-damaging advertising sign is placed on a “government owned” bridge in Boston all hell breaks loose. Just saying.

  26. If you find one, have some fun. Take it off and attach it on a taxi.

    I like the attach to a cop car idea better. All I could add is a to donate a locking gas cap ans a surprise present to your local constable.

  27. I see a huge black market in GPS disablers.

    “Officer, I had no idea the wire came loose with the GPS unit. Wow, I wonder how that happened? Oh, look, now that I plugged it in, the unit is defective…bummer.”

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