Court says police can secretly install GPS devices
BOSTON -- The state's highest court ruled Thursday that police can install GPS tracking devices in a suspect's car, as long as they have a valid warrant.
The Supreme Judicial Court found that secretly installing the devices for investigative purposes does not violate a ban on unreasonable search and seizure under the state Constitution's Declaration of Rights.
In its unanimous ruling, the court said the devices can only be installed for 15 days. The court said law enforcement authorities must first prove to a magistrate that GPS monitoring of the car will produce evidence that a particular crime has been committed or is about to be committed.
The court upheld the cocaine trafficking conviction of Everett Connolly, a Cape Cod man who was tracked by state police after they installed a GPS device in his minivan.
The SJC found that the GPS tracking warrant was properly obtained by police.
"We hold that warrants for GPS monitoring of a vehicle may be issued under the courts' common-law authority, in circumstances similar to those here, where proper procedures are followed," Justice Judith Cowin wrote in the decision.
Three justices wrote a separate opinion agreeing with the overall ruling, but saying the court should have focused its analysis on privacy rights, saying that without judicial oversight, "the police potentially could engage in GPS monitoring of any individual and, through this device, learn what otherwise could be learned only through physical surveillance conducted seven days per week, twenty-four hours per day."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)