Split Panel Affirms Warrantless Use of GPS Device
The warrantless use of a global positioning device on a vehicle by police does not violate a driver’s right to privacy under either the U.S. Constitution or the New York state Constitution, an upstate appeals panel decided last week.
In becoming what it said was the first state appeals court in New York to address the issue, the Appellate Division, 3rd Department, panel determined that the privacy expectations of individuals under both the federal and state constitutions are lower when they are in their automobiles than when they are in their homes.
“Because we recognize the diminished expectation of privacy in a vehicle on a public roadway … we cannot agree that the NY Constitution precluded the warrantless placement of the GPS tracking device on defendant’s vehicle or retrieval of its data in connection with this ongoing police investigation,” a 4-1 panel held in People v. Weaver, 101104.
As to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the panel found that nothing prevents the use of technology, such as the satellite-aided positioning devices, to “surveil that which is already public.”
“Inasmuch as constant visual surveillance by police officers of defendant’s vehicle in plain view would have revealed the same information [as the GPS device] and been just as intrusive, and no warrant would have been necessary to do so, the use of the GPS device did not infringe on any reasonable expectation of privacy and did not violate defendant’s Fourth Amendment protections,” Justice Robert S. Rose wrote for the majority.
The dissenter, Justice Leslie E. Stein, argued that global positioning system devices are considerably more intrusive than traditional surveillance methods.
“While the citizens of this state may not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place at any particular moment**, they do have a reasonable expectation that their every move will not be continuously and indefinitely monitored** by a technical device without their knowledge, except where a warrant has been issued based on probable cause,” Stein wrote.
Hmmm . . . I can’t say I disagree with the ruling but I’m not crazy about it. From what I heard about it on the radio, the cops only have to suspect you of a crime. What crime – speeding? shoplifting?