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US TO SUPREME COURT: KEEP WARRANTLESS TRACKING

US Justice Department prosecutors pleaded with a federal appeals court to allow the placement of GPS tracking devices on the vehicles of suspected criminals without first obtaining a search warrant.

 

This argument goes against the Supreme Court ruling in the Jones case back in January which we have reported on extensively here at RMT, and asks the court to reconsider their decision. The ruling makes the practice of placing a tracking device without obtaining a warrant illegal, as it violates an individual’s Constitutional rights.

 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing the arguments, and the Obama Administration claims that the Jones ruling was not specific enough. Basically, because it did not make clear the need to obtain a warrant in each and every situation, a loophole was left wide open which actually allows GPS tracking despite the court’s intentions.

 

The brief submitted to the court argues that “requiring a warrant and probable cause would seriously impede the government’s ability to investigate drug trafficking, terrorism and other crimes,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The brief also argues that the tracking of a person’s movements using a GPS device is only a “limited intrusion” on one’s privacy.

 

In US v. Jones, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the use of GPS tracking devices on the vehicles of suspected criminals without a valid warrant violated the Fourth Amendment, more specifically unreasonable search and seizure. Those who advocate for privacy hoped that this decision would have set the precedent for cases dealing with warrantless tracking for all kinds of electronic surveillance devices besides GPS devices.

 

Currently, law enforcement is able to access digital records such as emails and cellphone location data without obtaining a warrant. However, searches within schools and at border crossing locations have been deemed exempt from the warrant requirement.

Author: Khristen Foss

Source: www.rmtracking.com

Your one stop for gps monitoring needs, contact an experienced GPS Monitoring Specialist to assist you with any GPS situtation.

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BREAKING THE SO-CALLED MONOPOLY ON GPS MONITORING IN ORANGE COUNTY

When Chief Judge Belvin Perry wrote his administrative order regarding the use of GPS monitoring devices for high-risk defendants, he never envisioned a monopoly in Orange County. But that is exactly what happened. Court Programs Inc. (CPI) was an already present monitoring service that somehow entrenched itself in the court system without going through a bidding process. Now, the company and the courts are under fire.

Perry’s four-page order provided only a loose contract in regard to tracking defendants. For example, there was no strict requirement by law that the service monitoring the GPS tracking device notify law enforcement if a restriction had been violated. It was simply assumed that the company would. Since many of the defendants selected to wear the bracelets were awaiting trials on domestic violence or sex offender charges, this lack of detailed instruction has raised many concerns. In fact, two such defendants fled while being monitored but authorities were not notified in a timely fashion. In another case, an employee of CPI falsely accused a defendant of violating restrictions in order to force payment.

While other counties have a list of monitoring services for defendants to choose from, Orange County never engaged in a bidding and proposal process. And although Perry’s order restricted judges from specifically naming a GPS monitoring service, court records revealed that in more than 550 of 800 cases justices directed defendants to CPI because it was the only known service available. Hence, Orange County appeared to have a monopoly with CPI when it came to outfitting defendants with a GPS tracking device. Because there was no competition, CPI could charge what it wanted and follow its own agenda for notifying authorities.

The average cost for monitoring an individual outfitted with a GPS-enabled bracelet in most counties is between $5 and $9 a day, but CPI charges defendants $12 a day, though it claims that it receives no taxpayer money for its services while other services are subsidized by the government. The courts cannot afford to lose their jurisdiction to a private, independent monitoring company that does not put public safety ahead of its profit margin, which is why it is important to get other companies involved.

Chief Judge Perry is rewriting his administrative order to rectify these issues and build a stronger contract that details the proper and lawful procedures for monitoring. Two monitoring companies have submitted proposals and are awaiting approval. Perry is hopeful that new companies coming in will create a more competitive environment that will lessen the cost and make companies more accountable, giving defendants a choice in their GPS tracking service.

Scotland Looks to GPS Tracking for High Risk Sex Offenders

After a disturbing turn of events, Scotland is considering following in Australia’s footsteps in attaching GPS tracking devices to its high risk sex offenders. Only a few days after being released from prison, Ryan Yates attempted to murder a grandmother in order to victimize her young grandchildren. Fortunately, the 60-year-old woman was able to fend off Yates while the children escaped, despite being stabbed by the attacker. The event has cast a critical eye on the police and other public bodies, responsible for monitoring Yates after his release from prison.

“Scotland has one of the most robust systems for managing sex offenders anywhere in the world and the monitoring of such offenders is now tougher than ever before. However, if processes can be improved and strengthened further, our law enforcement agencies and the Scottish Government will take action, which is why we brought in the new disclosure scheme allowing parents the right to know if a convicted sex offender is living in their community,” explained Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

“The Scottish Government is determined to take every opportunity of building on and strengthening the steps already taken to protect our communities from sex offenders,” MacAskill concluded. Yates was taken back to jail and sentenced for a minimum of ten years. GPS tracking devices aren’t fail-proof, but they do allow probation officers to have a better idea of the movements and whereabouts of a released convict. Geofences, or boundaries, can be set around schools and other places children populate to alert police if a high-risk offender is nearby.

“As is highlighted within the report, responsibility for what occurred on October 14, 2009, rests with the offender and only the offender. Clearly each of the members of the group has a responsibility to ensure that the public is protected as much as is possible. However, it is simply not possible to monitor an individual’s movements at all times, particularly in cases such as this where an offender is determined to commit further crimes after being released back into the community,” explained Tom Cowan, Northern Community Justice Authority.

Does GPS Belong in the Workplace?

US v. Jones rocked the world of law enforcement, sending many offices including the FBI back to square one on many cases of GPS surveillance that lacked a warrant granting the right for this intrusion into the private lives of many suspected criminals. It was the unanimous agreement that any surveillance period using a GPS tracking device takes away an individual’s expectation of privacy when going about their day-to-day activities. After any landmark Supreme Court decision such as this more issues are typically brought before the court relating to it, and some wonder if the court will soon address the issue of GPS tracking devices used in the workplace to keep track of the whereabouts of employees.

Using the Jones case as a guideline, global law firm Proskauer predicts GPS in the workplace will soon come before the Supreme Court, mostly because of the privacy issues addressed in the Jones case. Justice Scalia raised the issue of trespass once a device is placed on a suspect’s vehicle, and this could possibly lead to the decision that GPS devices are not allowed on employees personal vehicle.

In the months leading up to the Jones decision, a New York court decided that affixing a GPS device to the personal vehicle of a government employee in attempts to prove misconduct during business hours was in fact legal. A New Jersey court decided in the case of a private investigator being monitored via GPS in his own personal vehicle that the employer had not violated his right to privacy as he “did not allege travel to any secluded or private areas where there might be an expectation of privacy.”

Back to the Jones case, where Justices Sotomayor and Alito pointed out that the length of time the GPS tracking device was used goes too far with respect to the Fourth Amendment, which addresses an individual’s right to privacy. Jones was monitored for four weeks, and Sotomayor felt this would make investigators privy to a host of irrelevant information, including political, religious, familial, professional, and even sexual associations.

The states of California and Texas have laws currently in place making the installation of GPS tracking devices illegal without the consent of the vehicle’s owner. However, this does not apply to employer-owned vehicles.  Only a few courts have faced cases dealing with the monitoring of employees using GPS. A federal court in Missouri permitted the use of a GPS tracking device on a company car back in 2005, stating it was in fact not at all an invasion of privacy. The employer owns the car, and as such should be able to install whatever they wish, including a GPS device to monitor the employee that happens to be driving it. Usually this is done because there is suspected misconduct, like reports of an employee taking care of personal business on company time or not showing up where the employee is supposed to at the scheduled time.

Regardless of whether or not a company chooses to track their employees, it all comes down to how they go about it. It is this author’s opinion that personal vehicles be kept out of the discussion altogether, leaving only company vehicles as an option for the installation of GPS devices. It shouldn’t matter where that person goes in their own car. At the same time, there should be rules put in place addressing the practice of GPS monitoring of employees in company cars, such as making them aware they are being tracked. It is expected that this will be brought before the Supreme Court at some point in the near future, and you can count on RMT to keep you up to date throughout the process.

How do you feel about the use of GPS tracking devices in the workplace?

House Arrest Under GPS

Once used only to track released sex offenders under Jessica’s Law, California counties are now looking at and implementing early release programs based on GPS technology for other nonviolent criminals. Inmates are being fitted with tracking devices and monitored by probation officers through a laptop and Google Earth maps, thus reducing prison overcrowding and cost.

In October 2011, California passed realignment legislature that allows the state to delegate nonviolent criminals formerly under its jurisdiction to county jails. Though there are no direct transfers, new offenders receiving a sentence or finishing out a sentence, can be assigned to the county. Because of the influx of inmates, officials are seeking solutions to lessen the burdens of prisons filled beyond capacity.

Kings County, for example, is dealing with the problems brought on by a prison house made for 361 filled to 440. It has recently outfitted 80 inmates with GPS tracking ankle bracelets through an early release program, though officials do warn that such programs are not an end-all solution to the problem of overcrowding. Some prisoners simply need to stay behind bars. Kings County plans to increase its early release program until a new state-funded prison is built in 2015. They will use a private company to monitor the inmates for a cost of $4.25 a day per person. Compare this to $55 a day to keep a prisoner in jail.

Fresno County also plans to launch an early release program for low-risk inmates to include 50 individuals initially. GPS tracking devices would be placed before and after sentencing to reduce the prison population. Like Kings County, Fresno County plans to use a private company to monitor its inmates, which will cost about $70 less a day per person than keeping that same person in prison.

Though there are those who oppose GPS tracking for its seeming infringement on a person’s rights, those selected to be monitored see the program as freeing and definitely better than sitting in a jail cell. They can live at home and go to work; they can even go to the grocery store and other places approved by the probation officer. But if a GPS-enabled ankle bracelet is cut off or the set perimeters are violated, the monitoring system sends an automatic notification to the authorities so that the one under house arrest can be quickly apprehended.

GPS tracking may not be an end-all solution, but it certainly goes a long way toward helping authorities reduce overcrowding and cost in their prison systems.

FBI Cuts Down on GPS Tracker Use For Now

In a highly watched decision, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that secretly placing a GPS tracker on a suspect’s vehicle constitutes a search and is subject to fourth amendment rules. Mr. Jones, the defendant in the case, probably felt a sense of closure and relief, but the decision has marked the beginning of a tumultuous policy reworking in the field of law enforcement. Police and national agencies are scrambling to figure out how they can comply with the court’s direction and still continue using the investigative power of GPS. Most troublesome are the trackers that are currently out in the field, collecting information on suspects, but may not hold up under legal scrutiny.

FBI field offices across the nation quickly acted to consider each GPS tracker in use. If one was not under the authority of a warrant and might not meet the criteria for a “reasonable” search, the Bureau had to stop communicating with it. This ending of communication is irreversible, so the investigations in question lost valuable leads by abandoning the trackers. Unfortunately, agents didn’t have a choice, since any prosecution supported by these trackers’ data would be quickly thrown out by a judge.

It is unclear exactly how many GPS trackers the FBI disabled. The reported number varies widely from 250 to 3,000, depending on who is speaking. The Bureau is understandably wary of making information about ongoing investigations public, and its field offices are still in the process of reporting final numbers. We can only imagine how many other devices were disabled by state and local police across the nation, discarding valuable evidence that was central to investigations of many kinds.

It is interesting to consider how many individuals might have been under watch by law enforcement without their knowledge. Now, they may never know that anyone was watching them—that is, until they discover disabled GPS trackers concealed in their vehicles. Of course, this is not to say that all GPS tracking projects are illegal. Many agents and officers, anticipating the Supreme Court’s ruling, long ago began obtaining warrants to support their use of GPS devices. These investigations will continue and will likely display the huge advantage that global positioning gives law enforcement when it is used carefully.

Bill calls for tracking offenders by GPS

BATON ROUGE — A Senate committee approved legislation Tuesday that would give judges the discretion to mandate GPS tracking devices for certain defendants while they’re out on bail.

Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre requested the bill be filed and asked the Senate Committee on Judiciary to advance the proposal. He also informed its members he owns part of a company that sells tracking devices, among other related services.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics issued an opinion in 2002 stating Webre could sell ignition interlock devices, which are often required of drunk-driving offenders, just as long as he steers clear of doing business in Lafourche Parish. Webre said he’s following the same guidelines with the GPS tracking systems.

He told the committee he came up with the idea for the proposed law when he heard about a burglary involving a sex offender who was being tracked by GPS because of a court order. When coupled with the fact that Lafourche Parish has had 234 burglaries reported this year, he said a light went off.

“They were able to solve that burglary with the GPS data,” Webre said.

To put the rest of the pieces together, Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, filed Senate Bill 649 to target crimes involving burglary, theft and home invasion. He said individuals who carry out these crimes tend to be repeat offenders.

“They get out on bail, and we lose track of them, and then they usually come back in for the same thing,” Smith said. “If we can keep track of them while they’re out on bail, we’ll know where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing.”

Smith’s bill would allow a judge to mandate, as a condition of bail, that such defendants wear a GPS device if they can afford it. If the alleged offender is unable to pay for the tracking services, a provision in the bill permits community service in lieu of payment.

“They could even be a first-time offender,” Smith said. “They do not have to be a repeat offender.”

Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, said she isn’t convinced that accused first-time offenders should be included in the legislation. She urged Smith to consider revisions before the bill is introduced on the Senate floor for further debate.

“I think if the judge is going to consider (the accused’s) criminal record, then he should also consider if they don’t have one,” she said. “A person is innocent until proven guilty.”

If adopted by the House and Senate, and then subsequently signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal, the bill would become law Aug. 1. The legislation will next be heard by the full Senate.

by Jeremy Alford

West Australia To Track Sex Offenders with GPS

The government of West Australia has announced plans to follow Queensland in attaching GPS tracking devices to its sex offenders. Under this plan, sex offenders would be released into the community with anklets or bracelets equipped with GPS tracking technology. The tracking devices will monitor the individual’s movements, and can send alerts when leaving or entering specified zones. The policy eases the strain on over-crowded prison systems, and can hopefully act as a deterrent for repeat offenses. However, the announcement was met with some concern at the idea of releasing known sex offenders back into the community.

“Yes, it’s possible that it could increase the number of dangerous sex offenders that are released,” Terry Redman, WA Corrective Services Minister, told the Herald Sun. “But it’s also possible that we get a higher level of breach and hence people going back to the Supreme Court to face judgments about going back into prison … We really need to monitor how this goes.” The technology alerts the Corrective Services Department if the wearer tampers with or removes the device, or goes near a school or a victim’s home.

“Once we have this in place for dangerous sex offenders … I think there’s a lot of scope for it to be used for other people within that corrective services system that are a concern to the community,” Redman said. “We have women in Bandyup Women’s Prison now who have significant family responsibilities outside … Things like this GPS tracking, we may be able to have them maintaining links with their families where they’re not a risk to the community.”

Queensland has been tracking it’s sex offenders successfully for about a year. “Those states have clearly seen the benefit of that,” Redman explained. “Like all technology is never 100 percent perfect, it enhances significantly our capacity to monitor these people within our community.” He added that the department would need to wait for legislation to pass before any of West Australia’s offenders could be tracked. He expects legislation and tracking devices to be equipped in the next year.

Evidence Collected With Warrantless GPS Tracking Device Deemed Admissible

It appears not all citizens are protected from warrantless tracking after all, despite the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Jones case which declared GPS tracking of suspected criminals conducted without a warrant unconstitutional. In Iowa, a federal judge decided evidence gathered with a warrantless GPS tracking device installed on the vehicle in the case against a suspected drug trafficker is admissible in court.

DEA agents affixed a GPS tracking device on the car of Angel Amaya without first obtaining a warrant, and US District Judge Mark Bennett declared the evidence was admissible in court because the device was placed prior to the Jones ruling. Agents did exactly as they should at the time, acting in good faith and following the laws laid out by the 8 th Circuit Court of Appeals stating warrantless tracking was a completely legal form of surveillance in Iowa and six additional states.

This is the third such ruling by federal court judges since the decision was made at the Supreme Court level. That means not all criminals are out of the woods yet, unless they happen to live in a state that did not allow warrantless GPS tracking, or if the evidence was gathered after the Jones case was decided.

“It is a bit of an end-run around for law enforcement,” according to Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney with the Electric Frontier Foundation. “And it leads to disparate results because whether [GPS evidence] gets suppressed or not depends on what the law of the circuit was prior to Jones.” Which courts had previously deemed warrantless GPS tracking legal? The 7 th (Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana), 8th (Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North and South Dakota) and 9th (Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, the Mariana Islands, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) had all ruled in favor of warrantless tracking.

What does this mean for law enforcement officials in these 19 states? Provided the “good faith exception” is used supporting the placement of the GPS tracking device on a suspect’s vehicle in order to more effectively conduct surveillance, and that the device was placed prior to the Jones decision, evidence could be admissible.

Legal experts feel this is one big disaster for the Supreme Court ruling. “If we’re going to apply the law one way in half the country and another way in the other half of the country, that’s a real problem,” said Fakoury. The 2011 Supreme Court Davis v. US case brought about this good faith exception, used for searches that were conducted legally at the time, but were later determined to be unconstitutional.

The defense attorney representing Amaya, R. Scott Rhinehart, was shocked after hearing the court’s decision. “I’m not sure where this is coming from to be honest with you,” he said. He points out that “good faith” was no part of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Amaya was suspected of drug trafficking, and was indicted last July for possession and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana. GPS tracking devices were placed on the vehicles of nine different vehicles which belonged to a handful of suspects, three of which were vehicles owned or driven by Amaya.

So far, three cases in total have succeeded using this good faith exception; the other two being in Hawaii and California. Fakhoury says the Davis ruling itself, not the judges application of the ruling, is to blame. “Davis is a really poorly-reasoned, not well thought out option. This situation is just going to keep popping up again and again,” he said. “And the whole point of a Supreme Court ruling is to clarify the law and make it uniform across the country.”

Warrantless Tracking Decision Giving FBI Headaches

We’ve provided extensive coverage on the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding the use of a GPS device to monitor and track the movements of suspected criminals. If you haven’t been following along, this started when Antoine Jones, a convicted drug dealer, challenged the court’s conviction after being found guilty, based on evidence collected with a GPS device affixed to his vehicle. The Supreme Court decided unanimously, back in January, that law enforcement should not be allowed to use a GPS trackingdevice in this way without first obtaining a warrant.

Objections with this decision are now coming from the FBI who must deactivate a multitude of these tracking devices in certain investigations, according to FBI director Robert Mueller. He says they must now conduct physical surveillance of such suspects, stretching resources thin. “Putting a physical surveillance team out with six, eight, 12 persons is tremendously time intensive,” he says, adding that the ruling “will inhibit our ability to use this in a number of surveillances where it has been tremendously beneficial.”

The exact number of the devices which were deactivated has not been released, but it is known that the FBI possesses 3,000 GPS devices; information which was released by the FBI’s general counsel a couple of weeks ago at a law school conference. According to Mueller, “we have a number of people in the United States who we could not indict, there’s not probable cause to indict them or to arrest them who present a threat of terrorism, articulated maybe up on the internet, may have purchased a gun, but taken no particular steps to make a terrorist act…and we are stuck in the position of surveilling that person for a substantial period of time.” He claims the GPS trackers “enabled us to utilize resources elsewhere.”

He assures they are complying with the court’s ruling, and adds that they will only allow GPS monitoring of suspects in cases where it can legally be done. This is comforting, as the majority of citizens feel that this is taking the investigation process to a whole new, uneasy level. Its Big Brother-like feel is most likely what led the court to reach their decision in the matter. An ACLU lawyer, Catherine Crump, says that authorities’ claims of any investigation being affected adversely by the need to obtain a warrant to conduct GPS surveillance are “unfounded, as many law enforcement agencies routinely obtain such approval for GPS tracking.”

Have an opinion on this case? Comment below and let us know if you support the court’s decision, or the idea that the FBI will suffer from the ruling’s requirements.