Last week there were more legal disputes involving GPS tracking without a warrant and 4th Amendment rights. The highest courts in New York, Oregon and Washington have ruled that warrants are required when law enforcement officers want to track someone with GPS tracking technology, but the Ohio Supreme Court has not yet decided on the issue.
GPS Tracking Without a Warrant
In Ohio, two men accused in a number of home-invasion robberies in Franklin County are trying to get the evidence thrown out court because the sheriff tracked them by placing a GPS device on their car without a warrant. A judge in Fairfield County, where the last of the home invasions occurred, ruled in July that investigators didn’t need a warrant to attach the GPS tracking device to the car. The two men pleaded no contest in that case, and each was convicted and sentenced to prison. They are appealing the convictions, based largely on the GPS tracking issue. Trial dates are tentatively set in May.
Ohio law on the issue is unclear, but recent court rulings don’t bode well for the defendants. An Ohio appeals court has ruled that people driving on a public road should not expect privacy. The most-recent appeals-court ruling in Ohio found that warrants aren’t necessary. In November, the 12th District Court of Appeals upheld a lower-court decision that the Butler County sheriff’s office didn’t violate the constitutional rights of a suspected drug dealer whose movements were tracked with a GPS tracking device placed on his van without a warrant.
Which Side Do You Agree With?
The prosecutor made an interesting point when he said “If the sheriff’s office had sufficient manpower, it could follow a car 24/7 without a warrant. In essence, you’re doing with a GPS tracking device what you could do with officers if not for manpower issues.”
But then the the defense attorney argued that the satellite GPS-based tracking of his client for nine days without a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio agrees that use of GPS to track citizens without a warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, said James Hardiman, the organization’s legal director.
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