Court says police can use GPS to track anyone

An appeals court in Wisconsin declares that police can use GPS to track anyone they like, without having to apply for a search warrant.

I haven't managed to become dependent on GPS yet.

It seems to be quite fun when you're driving in strange areas of America. But I'm not sure I want to hear a voice telling me where to go all the time. It's all a little too, well, corporate for me. Or a little too like a 20-year-old marriage.

However, I was moved to virtual paralysis when I learned that an appeals court in Wisconsin decided that police can stick a GPS-tracking device on anyone they want without getting a search warrant. Even if that person is not suspected of anything more than living, breathing and expectorating.

The Fourth District U.S. Court of Appeals doesn't seem terribly happy about its own decision. However, the court decided, after much rumination, that GPS does not involve searching and seizing.

Which means that any information gained by sticking a secret GPS-tracking device on someone's car will only yield information that could have been gleaned through normal visual surveillance.

Some might wonder, normal visual surveillance by whom? R2D2? Spiderman?

"Sir, I believe I know precisely who sculpted those sideburns for you. Do you want her husband to know?" CC Greenbroke/Flickr

The decision stemmed from a case against Michael Sveum, a Madison resident who was accused of stalking. In his case, police got a warrant to slip a GPS on his car.

Sveum argued that this contravened his Fourth Amendment rights, which protect him against unreasonable search and seizure. His lawyers said that he was followed out of the public view, in intimate places such as his garage.

The court begged to differ, declaring that an officer could have used his eyes to see when Sveum entered and left his garage.

I don't know about you, but I'm a little disquieted about this. Imagine if you'd met a nice person in a bar. Having spent some considerable overnight time with this person, you discover that this person is the lover of a police officer.

This ruling seems to say that the officer can track your every movement by sticking a GPS on your chassis with a view to sticking a haymaker on your chin. Yes, this might sound a somewhat unlikely example. But surely you see the point.

Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU in Wisconsin, does. He told the Chicago Tribune: "The idea that you can go and attach anything you want to somebody else's property without any court supervision, that's wrong. Without a warrant, they can do this on anybody they want."

Even the appeals court itself is "more than a little troubled" by its own misdirected thinking and suggested that lawmakers in Wisconsin regulate the use of GPS by its officials.

I have a theory, however. I believe the court made this decision because it wants the police to track every single movement taken by former Green Bay quarterback and legendary mind-changing diva Brett Favre.

The Cheeseheads want to know whether he's staying retired or whether he's thinking of unretiring yet again, don't they?

 

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