Across the U.S., police are using GPS devices to snare thieves, drug dealers, sexual predators, and killers, often without a warrant or court order, the Washington Post reports. Privacy advocates said tracking suspects electronically constitutes illegal search and seizure, violating Fourth Amendment rights of protection, and is another step toward George Orwell’s Big Brother society. Police said GPS is essentially the same as having an officer trail someone, just cheaper and more accurate. Most of the time, judges have sided with police.
With the courts’ blessing, and the declining cost of the technology, police may increasingly rely on GPS as an effective tool in investigations. Last year, FBI agents used a GPS device while investigating an embezzlement scheme to steal from Washington, D.C., taxpayers, attaching one to a suspect’s Jaguar. “I’ve seen them in cases from New York City to small towns — whoever can afford to get the equipment and plant it on a car,” said John Wesley Hall, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “And of course, it’s easy to do. You can sneak up on a car and plant it at any time.” Detectives in New York caught a drug-runner after monitoring his car as he bought and sold methamphetamine. In Wisconsin, police tracked two suspected burglars by attaching a GPS device to their car and apprehending them after a burglary.