Blown To Bits

GPS and the Fourth Amendment

Friday, August 15th, 2008 by Harry Lewis

The Washington Post reports (picked up by the Boston Globe) that many police forces are attaching GPS devices to cars to track suspects’ movements. When charged with a crime, suspects have challenged the evidence on the basis that it was obtained without a search warrant. Courts have accepted the explanation that no warrants were needed because this is just a technological version of what the police could have done by following the suspect in person.

Koan 5: “More of the Same Can Be a Whole New Thing.” It sure feels that way, doesn’t it? GPSs are expensive now, but getting cheaper quickly, like all digital technologies. Suppose they cost only a few bucks. Then if a crime is committed in a neighborhood, and the police want to see who from that neighborhood returns to the crime scene, they could just attach GPS’s to everyone’s cars, and close in on the one that goes to the crime scene. Without any worry that the rest of us could take umbrage at the police tracking us without probable cause to think we had committed any crime.

One Response to “GPS and the Fourth Amendment”

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