Judge Finds Loophole In GPS Supreme Court Ruling24 Apr 2012
On January 23, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement’s use of GPS Tracking devices to track a suspect was deemed unconstitutional. However, last week a federal judge in Iowa discovered a loophole in that ruling.
Mark Bennett, U.S. District Judge in Sioux City, ruled in Case 5:11-cr-04065-MWB United States of America (plantiff) v. Angel Amaya (defendant) that evidence obtained by federal Drug Enforcement Agents (DEA) last year through GPS tracker evidence — prior to the Supreme Court warrantless covert GPS tracking ruling — is submittable in court.
When DEA federal agents collected GPS tracking evidence against suspected drug traffiker, Angel Amaya, they were acting on the binding and precedent 8th U.S. Circuit of Appeals that authorized the covert use of surveillance through warrantless GPS in seven states, including the state of Iowa, noted Judge Bennett in the case. Further, the agents were acting in “good faith” at the time of the evidence collection.
Since the recent and momentous Supreme Court ruling, this is the third “good faith” ruling that federal court judges made. Judges in two 9th circuit court GPS cases (California and Hawaii) also argued the “good faith exception” last month.
These recent judge rulings shed light on the ability of prosecutors and law enforcement agents to circumvent the Supreme Court ruling in areas of the country where using a GPS tracker device without a warrant was legal prior to the ruling.
In addition to the seven states in the 8th circuit court (Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota), three states in the 7th circuit courts (covering Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois) and nine states areas in the 9th circuit courts (covering Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, Hawaii, Guam and the Mariana Islands) ruled warrantless GPS tracking legal prior to the January 23, 2012 Supreme Court ruling.
If the so-called “good faith exception” is followed in other circuit courts, this means that prosecutors and law enforcement in 19 states, and Guam and the Mariana Islands, can use warrantless GPS tracker evidence obtained prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling in cases currently pending.
“This situation is just going to keep popping up again and again,” aid Hanni Fakhoury, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “And the whole point of a Supreme Court ruling is to clarify the law and make it uniform across the country,” he further said.