Law-enforcement officials in central Ohio have made three arrests in the past two weeks by secretly attaching GPS devices to suspects’ cars and tracking their movements, says the Columbus Dispatch. Police don’t want to talk about it out of concern that the information will benefit criminal minds. The Franklin County sheriff’s office used the Global Positioning System to track down two men suspected in a string of home-invasion robberies. Chief Deputy Steve Martin wouldn’t say whether investigators obtained a warrant to place the tracking unit on the suspects’ car. Whether a warrant is needed in Ohio is unclear.
Recent rulings in other states are in conflict. In May, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled that law-enforcement officers can attach GPS devices to vehicles without obtaining warrants. A week later, the New York State Court of Appeals came to a different conclusion, ruling that police must obtain a warrant. The U.S. attorney’s office in Columbus recommends that federal agencies, and local agencies working with federal task forces, seek a warrant whenever placing a GPS device on a suspect’s car. A warrant probably isn’t required if the vehicle is on public property, such as a street, and the device is placed on the vehicle’s exterior, but lack of a warrant would prevent investigators from tracking the vehicle onto private property.