On May 3, 2012, in Larimer County, CO, outspoken government critic Stacy Lynne discovered a hidden GPS tracking device attached to her vehicle by local Sheriff’s investigators.
Sheriff’s investigators admit they placed the tracking device on her vehicle in December, 2011, over fears Lynne was preparing to kidnap her son. However, they say they never turned it on and then tried and failed to retrieve it for four months, reported the Colorado Doan News.
Ms. Lynne says she looked for and discovered the GPS tracking device after several incidents in which she returned to her truck to find police nearby and thought they might have been following her. As it turns out, they were.
Lynne has repeatedly tangled with the sheriff’s office and Fort Collins city officials over a variety of issues, including what she believes is a U.N. plot to take over local government and a child-custody battle that led to her arrest.
After discovering the GPS tracking device on her vehicle, she said “That is unbelievable. I think that’s unbelievable. Isn’t that called stalking?”
A December court order demanding that she turn her son over to his father set off a chain of events Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said “should not have happened.”
On Dec. 21, sheriff’s deputies told Lynne to turn over her son, Jaden, as ordered by the court. Lynne, believing the order to be illegal and invalid, refused at first and went to a local copy shop to write up a legal pleading. While she was inside, deputies hid a GPS tracking device under the bumper of her SUV. Then they arrested her.
“They did place a GPS tracker on that vehicle because we didn’t know where that kid was. There was a fear that she would flee with the child,” Smith said. “We had a court order that this child needed to be safely returned.”
Lynne was booked into the jail and held there until her son was handed over to his father a few hours later. She was then released, and no charges were ever brought against her. But the GPS tracking unit remained on her SUV.
Because Lynne didn’t flee, deputies never got a court order allowing them to turn the GPS tracking device on, Smith said.
In January, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that placing a GPS tracking device on a vehicle constitutes a “search” within the definition of the Fourth Amendment and therefore requires a warrant to be constitutional.
Since the Supreme Court’s decision the FBI says it has disabled about 3,000 GPS tracking devices it was using to keep track of suspects’ locations, according to the Wall St. Journal. The FBI disabled the tracking devices in order to comply with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on warrantless GPS tracking.
Deputies tried several times to retrieve the device, but Smith said they didn’t want to trespass on private property or tip off Lynne that the tracker was there. He said they went to places where she was known to frequent in hopes of secretly retrieving it, but they were unable to get it back.
Smith said deputies were reluctant to tell Lynne they had attached the device to her SUV. Lynne is already suing the sheriff’s office over that Dec. 21 incident.
“They just couldn’t find it, and we didn’t want to trespass on private property to retrieve it,” Smith said. “Certainly in this case, the last thing I wanted to see was things that would add to her angst.”
Responded Lynne: “I guess that didn’t work out so well.”
Smith said he’s talking with his deputies about what happened and how to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Like many other agencies, the sheriff’s office much more commonly uses cell-phone data to track the location of people. He said the office has been using the GPS trackers for a number of years.
Smith said he supports the placement of the GPS tracking device on Lynne’s SUV but said losing track of it was a mistake. “I’m not happy it was just floating out there. We should have found a way. We should have gotten that thing back,” he said.
The GPS tracking device Lynne pulled from her SUV has three parts: a battery pack, a processor and GPS unit, and an external antenna.