- Category: Law Enforcement
Supreme Court GPS Decision Makes Little Impact
When police suspected a local man of being a drug trafficker the law enforcement authorities decided to place a GPS tracker on his vehicle to find out what exactly he was doing and where he was going. The GPS tracker became instrumental in helping the police gather evidence that showed the man was indeed trafficking large amounts of illegal drugs.
After local courts handed down a verdict of life in prison to the drug trafficker it was made public that police did not first obtain a warrant before placing the GPS tracker on his vehicle. The same GPS tracker that was so vital in exposing the illegal activity. In a last ditch effort to avoid spending the remainder of his life in jail, the man appealed the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
The case became widely publicized due to the increased prevalence of GPS tracking technology, including in popular smart phones such as the iPhone that would store personal locational data. Although the case reached the very highest courts, the decision was still a very closely decided 5-4 vote stating that law enforcement agencies must be first required to obtain a warrant from a judge before they can place a GPS vehicle tracker on a automobile for surveillance purposes.
Warrant Requirements Won't End GPS Tracking
The Supreme Court decision may have resulted in a drug trafficker being released from prison, but the ruling will do little to curb the use of real-time GPS tracking among police wanting to monitor potential criminal suspects. Of course, police agencies will now have to follow the protocol of acquiring a warrant before they equip a GPS tracker upon a vehicle, but police have never really found it difficult obtaining a warrant when and if they need one. With cut backs facing many police agencies and state budgets getting tighter and tighter, GPS tracking systems allow law enforcement to conduct detailed investigations without keeping uniformed officers working in the field (something that could result in high overtime payments).
GPS trackers are now a staple among police agencies all across the globe because of their reliability and performance. The GPS tracking devices acquire data, and keep officers out of harm's way. That is why although the Supreme Court decision was ground-breaking, it won't come close to ending the practice of GPS tracking.