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MADISON - This morning, the Wisconsin Supreme Court concluded that Madison police acted according to law when they obtained a Dane County circuit court order authorizing the installation of a Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking device on the car of Michael A. Sveum, a man whom they suspected of stalking a former girlfriend. Information obtained from the GPS tracker led to Sveum's later conviction for aggravated stalking. Wisconsin's highest court assumed, but did not specifically decide, that the installation and monitoring of the GPS tracker constituted a search or seizure under both United States and Wisconsin Constitutions.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whose office represented the State of Wisconsin in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, supported the Court's decision. "GPS technology provides Wisconsin law enforcement officers with another powerful crime-fighting tool," said Van Hollen. "Here, Madison police obtained a valid warrant and acted reasonably in placing the GPS tracker on Sveum's car and in obtaining the data. Sveum's rights were scrupulously protected."
Sveum had a previous criminal conviction for stalking his former girlfriend. After receiving information that Sveum had renewed his stalking, Madison police obtained a circuit court order authorizing them to install and monitor a GPS tracking device on Sveum's car. Over the 60-day period specified in the order, police installed, monitored and replaced several GPS trackers. Data recovered from the devices provided incriminating evidence of Sveum's movements and he was eventually convicted of aggravated stalking.
Sveum challenged the validity of the circuit court order authorizing the installation and monitoring of the GPS tracker. In upholding the order's validity, the Wisconsin Supreme Court concluded:
Records from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections indicate that Michael A. Sveum remains incarcerated at the Oshkosh Correctional Institution in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision in State of Wisconsin v. Michael A. Sveum, No. 2008AP658-CR, appears at the Court's website:
The Dane County District Attorney's Office prosecuted Sveum in Dane County Circuit Court. Assistant Attorney General Daniel J. O'Brien represented the State of Wisconsin in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.