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GPS Tracking Of Vehicle Movement On Public Streets Does Not Constitute A Fourth Amendment Search Or Seizure, WI Court Of Appeals Holds

 

"New technology can provide new ways for law enforcement officers to investigate possible crimes," says Van Hollen.  "Here, the use of the GPS tracker didn't violate the Fourth Amend­ment because police never searched or seized Sveum's car, its occupants or its contents."

 

MADISON - In a decision released this morning, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held in pertinent part that no Fourth Amendment search or seizure occurs when police attach a Global Positioning System (GPS) tracker to the outside of a car parked in an area accessible to the public, and then use the tracker to follow the car's movement on public streets.  The court affirmed Michael A. Sveum's Dane County conviction for aggravated stalking, a conviction obtained in part by use of detailed GPS tracking information on the movements of Sveum's car.

 

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whose office represented the State of Wisconsin on appeal, applauded the decision.  "New technology can provide new ways for law enforcement officers to investigate possible crimes," said Van Hollen.  "Here, the use of the GPS tracker didn't violate the Fourth Amend­ment because police never searched or seized Sveum's car, its occupants or its contents."

 

As part of their investigation of Sveum's alleged stalking, police obtained a circuit court warrant authorizing them to covertly attach a GPS tracker to Sveum's car.  Based in part on information retrieved from the tracker, police later obtained another warrant to search Sveum's residence and car.  Sveum challenged the admission of the GPS tracking information and other evidence obtained as a result of the tracking.  Adopting arguments made by the State, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals concluded that neither a search nor a seizure occurs when law enforcement officers use a GPS device to track a vehicle while it is visible to the general public.  Under those circumstances, the GPS tracker simply made it easier to discover what was already open to public view--the car's movements.

 

From the court's decision: