Delaware Judge Limits GPS Tracking Without Warrant


In what may set a Delaware precedent, a judge has gutted a criminal case against a man who was pulled over with 10 pounds of marijuana because police used a GPS tracking device without a warrant to follow him for nearly a month, reports the Wilmington News Journal. Deputy Attorney General Brian Robertson argued that information from a global positioning device that police attached to the car of Michael Holden was only a part of a larger “multifaceted” case against the him by the interagency Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force.

Defense attorney John Deckers countered that the 20-day-long use of a GPS device to track his client — weeks before police got a tip about the Feb. 24 exchange — amounted to an unreasonable search and violated his client’s privacy without probable cause. “The advance of technology will continue ad infinitum,” wrote Judge Jan Jurden. “An Orwellian state is now technologically feasible. Without adequate judicial preservation of privacy, there is nothing to protect our citizens from being tracked 24/7.” Though police can follow a suspect in public, there are limits to how long officers can keep up the tail, whereas a GPS device never sleeps and “provides more information than one reasonably expects to be ‘exposed to the public,’ ” the judge said. If no warrant is required for such surveillance, “any individual could be tracked indefinitely without suspicion of any crime. [] No one should be subject to such scrutiny by police without probable cause,” she concluded.

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