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Does the police need a search warrant to use GPS?

Contact Attorney Jason Chan

Attorney Jason Chan

267 North Beacon Street, Suite 3
Boston MA 01235

Phone: 781-343-1DUI (781-343-1384)
Fax: 617-226-7986

20 years ago it was difficult to find someone that had GPS.  In the modern world where new tech toys are coming out every few months, GPS is more common than ever.  GPS is in cars and even in the palm of most people’s hands. 

GPSWith technology moving so fast the law is trying its best to keep up.  GPS is used now more than ever in criminal cases.  GPS is used in all stages of a criminal case.  First, GPS could be used a way to hinder the movement of a defendant who has plead guilty to an offense.  Second, a judge could require that a defendant abide by a GPS while their case is pending.  And finally, the GPS is being used more and more as an investigative tool by the police. 

When a person is placed on probation or on pre-trial release they know that they are on a GPS.  On the other hand, when the police use the GPS as an investigation tool, the suspect has no idea that the GPS is being used.  The giant legal question was does the police need to have a search warrant to tag someone with a GPS?  The question regarding GPS and criminal police investigations was very much a gray area until now. 

The United States Supreme Court (Boston Globe Article) has ruled that the police do need a search warrant to use GPS in investigating a case.  The US Supreme Court found that the police using a GPS without a search warrant violate a suspect’s constitutional rights.  With the police having access to greater technology these legal questions and limits are just the beginning of a new world. 



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