Another Day, Another Court Decision on Warrantless GPS Tracking

 

A split federal appeals court agreed Baltimore police acted in good faith when using a GPS tracking device without a warrant to track a suspect back in 2011.

The GPS device was attached under the rear bumper of the suspect’s car and officers used the information provided to find and stop the vehicle.  They found a loaded gun in the car, driven by Henry Stephens who was part of a gun and drug investigation.  Stephens plead guilty, but challenged the admission of evidence. The tracker was placed prior to the 2012 ruling that warrantless tracking is a “search” under the Fourth Amendment, and at the time the court didn’t rule all warrantless GPS Tracking was in violation of he Fourth Amendment.

This week, the Fourth Circuit decided in 2011 “it was not uncommon for law enforcement officers in Maryland to attach tracking devices to vehicles without a warrant.”  However, Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote in dissent, saying the exclusionary rule “is well-tailored to hold accountable the law enforcement officers in this case who relied on nonbinding, nonprecedential authority regarding emerging technology—without first bothering to seek legal guidance—in order to conduct a warrantless search which spanned a period of nearly two months.”