Police Tracking Laws Changed by Supreme Court

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Law enforcement officers can't slap GPS devices on suspect cars during an investigation anymore. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday they will now have to get a warrant do to so and it has to be current.

A law professor and former FBI agent agree the ruling is a good one for somewhat different reasons.

"They could slap a GPS on any car at any time without any court intervention, without any court approval," said former FBI agent Jeff Lanza.

The U.S. Supreme court handed down a unanimous ruling which said law enforcement agencies will now have to get a warrant before they can slap a GPS tracking device on the car of someone they're investigating.

The decision has the support of KU Law Professor Melanie Wilson. Wilson says the technique is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, the protection against unreasonable search and seizure and the ruling takes another step toward clarity because of the changing technology.

"Technology changes so much, there's no way to anticipate where it might go, how it might come out,"Wilson  said. "So, finding fourth amendment protection for something that is developing and can't anticipate is very important."

Former FBI agent Jeff Lanza says it can take anywhere from 12 hours to a few days to get a court warrant.
He doesn't think that has an impact on whether investigators will miss out on something critical because you can always get emergency warrants in which case it's immediate.

"If someone's in danger, if you have a kidnapped child and you need to put a GPS onto someone's car, you're gonna be able to do that, no problem," Lanza said. In fact, Lanza says the ruling can only do good for agencies.

"Its going to hurt initially that they're not going to be able to do that, but ultimately they'll build better intelligence in different ways to get probable cause and that's going to make for better investigations," Lanza said.

The ruling stemmed from a conviction in Washington, D.C. where police tracked a night club owner suspected of drug dealing even after the warrant expired. The court's ruling overturns the man's sentence of life in prison.

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