Police Use of GPS Without a Warrant: Legal or Illegal?


The New York Times reports today that the New York State Court of Appeals ruled 4-to-3 that New York State Police "violated a criminal suspect's rights under the State Constitution when it placed a GPS tracking device inside the bumper of his van without obtaining a warrant." The court ruled that the using a GPS tracking device was an illegal search.

On the other hand, last week there was a Chicago Tribune story about the Wisconsin State District 4 Court of Appeals 3-to-0 ruling that police there "can mount GPS on cars to track people without violating their (state) constitutional rights -- even if the drivers aren't suspects." The rationale given was because GPS tracking does not involve a search or a seizure, police don't have to obtain search warrants, the story says.

In addition, in this story at the Wisconsin Law Journal, it says that the Wisconsin judges felt that the GPS tracking device was not providing any information that was not otherwise publicly viewable.

Okay, color me confused.

Any clarifying explanations by you lawyer-types for the apparently contradictory opinion would be greatly appreciated.

Also, I would be interested in hearing about the legality of using GPS for monitoring in other locales, US and otherwise.


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Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City