Saturday, October 10, 2009
Cell Phone Tracking (GPS) and Car Tracking (GPS) Without A Warrant by Private Investigators Is It Legal, "Big Brother is tucked away in our cell phones."
Cell phone GPS tracking is used in "limited circumstances" and is used in cases involving "known, dangerous criminals or in the apprehension of fugitives by Law Enforcement Officers (LEO)." State or Federal court approval is needed before using the cell phone tracking technique." "Tracking the location of people's cell phones reveals intimate details of their daily routines and is highly invasive of their privacy," said Catherine Crump, a staff attorney with the ACLU. "The government is violating the Constitution when it fails to get a search warrant before tracking people this way."
In a major ruling, the New York Court of Appeals has held that the police cannot use a GPS device on a suspect’s car without a warrant — ordering a new trial for Scott Weaver, 41, a burglary suspect. In the meantime, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals came to the opposite conclusion: finding no need for a warrant in the use of GPS devices against citizens for any reason by the police.
A Wisconsin court ruled recently that police can now secretly attach a GPS tracking device (like the one pictured above) to your car without a warrant. They can then track your comings and goings without your knowledge, building a case against you to presumably protect your fellow citizens.
The court reasoned that it's okay for cops to spy on citizens like this because "GPS tracking does not involve a search or seizure." The ACLU scoffed at this fantasy, saying it's "a gross violation of one's privacy, and makes the Fourth Amendment a sad clown."
A spokesperson for the Wisconsin branch of the American Civil Liberties Union expressed disappointment in the judge’s conclusion, saying that it was wrong for someone to attach something on another person’s personal property, without court permission.
Wisconsin is one of the first states in the country to pass a law specifically addressing GPS tracking devices, recognizing their growing importance in investigating criminal activity. It might be looked upon as a legal precedent by courts in other states.
What then could make covert GPS tracking illegal? Well, if you are violating the constitutional rights of another person with your tracking that will make it illegal. GPS tracking is unconstitutional when you begin violating their privacy or harassing them with your tracking. Since all covert GPS tracking is pretty much a harassment and violation of your privacy you can pretty much assume that any and all covert GPS tracking undertaken by private citizens is going to be considered illegal.
In the final analysis, covert GPS vehicle tracking is legal in some circumstances and illegal in others. Police, if they have a warrant, are pretty much always able to install secret tracking devices inside vehicles or even track a cell phone. Private citizens, on the other hand, can only employ GPS tracking for their personal property, "THEIR OWN PERSONAL PROPERTY "- whether it is done covertly or not, you can not hire a third party (like a private investigator) to "bug" your husband or wife's cell phone or car !