A court in Wisconsin upheld the legal right of police attaching a GPS device to a vehicle without a warrant and without needing to alert the person being tracked.

MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin police can attach GPS to cars to secretly track anybody’s movements without obtaining search warrants, an appeals court ruled Thursday.

However, the District 4 Court of Appeals said it was “more than a little troubled” by that conclusion and asked Wisconsin lawmakers to regulate GPS use to protect against abuse by police and private individuals.

As the law currently stands, the court said police can mount GPS on cars to track people without violating their constitutional rights — even if the drivers aren’t suspects.

Officers do not need to get warrants beforehand because GPS tracking does not involve a search or a seizure, Judge Paul Lundsten wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel based in Madison.

Do you think this sort of warrantless GPS tracking is a violation of our Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure?

Or is this sort of police GPS tracking of any citizen just a Panopticonic extension of traditional police surveillance used during a stakeout?

4 Comments

  1. The police certainly do not have any more right to do this than to enter your home and search it just because you are wearing a “pot iz kul” shirt. How terrible.

  2. It is certainly a disappointment, Gordon. The judges who ruled in favor of the police blame vague surveillance law and encouraged local lawmakers to make it clearer in the law if that sort of phantom GPS surveillance should, in fact, be legal or not. Let’s hope smarter minds get tasked with shoring up our right not to be unwittingly followed by GPS trackers.

  3. I can’t help but wonder if this new method of tracking individuals will back fire on the judges and the police as it did on the judge that approved the “Imminent domain.” He found himself displaced, angrily I might add, by his own ruling.

  4. That would be a perfect way to resolve matters like this, Kimberley! It’s crazy how every little bit of privacy we think we have left is taken away with the right hand of the law. Why not just require everyone have a GPS that feeds directly into the police database? There’s nothing stopping that system from being implemented right now. You can even later demand the driver pay for the GPS device and their own surveillance with additional driver fees at the time of licensing.

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