/ June 10, 2008

N.Y. Court Rules in Favor of Warrantless GPS

The New York Appellate Court, 3rd division, ruled last week that the warrantless use of a GPS device to track a suspect is not a violation of that person’s right to privacy guaranteed by the U.S. or New York constitutions. Because expectations of privacy tend to be lower within vehicles than in the home, and also because the GPS devices “surveil (sp) that which is already public,” the court ruled 4-1 that the decision of the lower court to deny the appellant’s motion for the suppression of evidence obtained using the GPS device should stand.

The appellant, Scott C. Weaver, had been a suspect in a string of robberies when investigators without a warrant placed a GPS tracking device under the bumper of his car. The device assisted them in catching Weaver at his next attempted burglary. Dissenting, Justice Leslie E. Stein stated that this method did in fact violate Weaver’s right to privacy under the New York state Constitution, which is considered to afford New Yorkers more extensive privacy rights than at the federal level:

“At some point, the enhancement of our ability to observe by the use of technological advances compels us to view differently the circumstances in which an expectation of privacy is reasonable. In my opinion, that point has been reached in the facts before us.”

Source: The New York Law Journal

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