In Part One of this series, we discussed the core issues of GPS Tracking and looked at how rapid advances in technology affect both our privacy and our personal freedoms. In this installment, we take a closer look at specific cases that pertain to these technologies and how they have been legislated.
Another federal case of note regarding electronic tracking devices is U.S. vs. Knotts. In this instance, the Supreme Court ruled that the state had not violated Mr. Armstrong’s Fourth Amendment rights by placing a beeper device (an older cousin of the GPS we know today) into a container of chloroform without his knowledge. Mr. Armstrong had failed to adequately inspect the container before taking it into his possession of his own free will, regardless of its covert nature. The failure to inspect the container with the tracking device before accepting them was tantamount to consent.
The court ruled that monitoring beeper signals did not invade any legitimate expectation of privacy on the part of the respondent. Therefore, there was never a “search” or “seizure” that fell within the parameters of the Fourth Amendment. The surveillance amounted to following a car on public streets and highways. No person traveling on these public routes has reasonable expectations of concealing their movements. While the person in question did have some expectation of privacy within their home (or cabin, in this particular case), this does not extend to publically funded roadways.
In short, the court does not have evidence presented in Knott’s case that would indicate that the tracking was not done in a public place.This still begs the question of what to do when someone is no longer in public view; i.e. gated communities, private roads and other outlets that are off the public grid.
In both of these cases, the key element was the method used to place the tracking device and the monitoring of the device itself. In the case of Jones, there was no “consent” and his property was private despite being in public view and in a public area.
It should also be noted that Jones’s girlfriend, the owner of the vehicle, did not give her consent in the matter. Each of these scenarios presents a different approach to the same grey area that exists in today’s national discussion and legislation of electronic tracking methods and placements.
In part three of this article will break down HB1981. By doing this, we will reveal the Chief Patrons intent of the bill, and demonstrate how greatly it has strayed from enforceable legislation to unenforceable ambiguity.
Written by John Morse