Wednesday, May 13, 2009

NY Court says GPS requires Warrant, Hallelujah

In the last few days the Wisconsin State Supreme Court said that cops don't have to have a warrant to attach a GPS device to your car. This was a stunning court approved invasion of privacy.

A NY State Appeals Court thankfully rules that cops must have a warrant.

The New York State Court of Appeals yesterday disagreed with Wisconsin's second-highest court in ruling that police may not use Global Position System (GPS) tracking devices without a warrant. A divided New York court found that the state police violated the law when officers placed a device known as Q-Ball on the van belonging to Scott C. Weaver on the morning of December 21, 2005. This device wirelessly transmitted an up-to-the-minute history of the vehicle's every move over the course of sixty-five days. Police never obtained a warrant for the surveillance, but the evidence obtained was used -- along with the testimony of a witness -- to convict Weaver of participating in a K-Mart burglary.

In evaluating the legal situation, the New York court -- like its Wisconsin counterpart -- turned to US v. Knotts, a 1983 US Supreme Court case involving a modest beeper-like transmitter. The New York judges departed from the reading of the Wisconsin judges by distinguishing the powerful capabilities of modern surveillance.