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Sunday, May 2, 2004

GPS Tracking of Police Suspects

The GPS ID-Sniper scope story(posted Friday) was a clever hoax. However, law enforcement is testing the legal theory that they can walk up to anyone's car and hide a magnetic GPS transmitter on the car's undercarriage. Is this a violation of a person's privacy rights or is this legal if the car is parked on a public road?

Richard D. Lacey
Richard D. Lacey

From Long Island, NY comes this test case:

On a summer night in 2002, a Nassau police detective secretly planted an electronic tracking device on the undercarriage of a car driven by a Lawrence man suspected of a string of burglaries.

For nearly a month, every car trip taken by Richard D. Lacey, 27, a security guard, was recorded by the tracking device -- a global positioning system commonly known as GPS.

Lacey didn't have a clue.

However, in a case that has broad implications for law enforcement, Lacey's lawyer is challenging the police department's high-tech tactics. In fact, in what is believed to be the first challenge of its kind in the state -- and one of only a handful in the nation -- defense attorney Bruce A. Barket of Garden City is asking a Nassau County Court judge to suppress evidence police gathered with the GPS, saying Lacey's privacy rights were violated.

At the heart of Barket's objection is whether police should have been allowed to tag Lacey's black, 1996 Mitsubishi Eclipse, which had Tennessee license plates, with the GPS without first obtaining a court order.
• Current Newsday Poll: Should police be able to install GPS devices on suspect's cars without court permission?
• Yes - 39.0%
• No - 58.6%
• Undecided - 2.4%

Secret Weapon Robber caught by GPS [Newsday, May 1, 2004]

Update:
Judge: Police Need Warrant to Use GPS [wtop.com, May 7, 2004]

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