Robbery Suspects Apprehended By Police GPS Use Without Warrant
- August 11, 2014
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US v. Katzin, 732 F. 3d 187 (2013), involved the warrantless placing of a GPS tracking device by police on the vehicle of brothers suspected in the robbery of multiple Rite Aid pharmacies in New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. Harry Katzin and his van were seen in the proximity of several of the pharmacies where the robberies took place. Using the GPS device, police tracked the Katzin brothers van as they drove to a Rite-Aid where a robbery took place then stopped them shortly thereafter. Evidence gathered during the traffic stop, which resulted from the use of the GPS device, led to their arrest. The device was installed on December 14, 2012 and the Katzins were apprehended on December 16, 2012, limiting the use to approximately 48 hours. In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Davis v. United States, 131 S. Ct. 2914 (2011), 564 U.S. ___ (2011) holding that evidence discovered while police were conducting searches in good faith reliance on legalities at the time of the search. In U.S. v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945, 565 U.S. ___ (2012), the U.S. Supreme Court held that attaching a GPS device to a vehicle constituted trespass and therefore required a warrant but never addressed whether the warrantless tracking utilizing the GPS device was unreasonable. Justice Steven Breyer’s comments during Jones likened the ability of police to monitor individuals 24 hours per day at will using GPS devices to George Orwell’s novel 1984. In Katzin, the brothers’ suppression motion was granted by a District Judge hearing the matter and government appealed to the Third Circuit. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that heard arguments in the case held that any evidence obtained through the use of the GPS tracking device must be suppressed. The prosecution maintained that, with probable cause to believe the vehicle is involved in criminal activity, no warrant should be required as the Fourth Amendment requires either a warrant or probable cause. The prosecution further argued that while attached to the vehicle, the device provided no information beyond what could be observed by simple visual surveillance. The ACLU argued that Jones found the original attachment of the GPS device to require a warrant, without consideration of whether limiting the time of the tracking would affect the need for a warrant. The ACLU further argued that the ease and cost-effectiveness of using a GPS device will render law enforcement likely to track individuals even where it there is no reasonableness. Without the requirement of a warrant, police could use GPS devices to gather information and use that information to establish probable cause. Ultimately, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that law enforcement officers must have a valid warrant before installing a GPS tracking device on a suspect’s vehicle. If you are facing charges of robbery, the penalties can be severe and you should obtain experienced criminal defense counsel immediately. For further information regarding robbery, warrantless searches, burglary or other serious criminal offenses in New Jersey, visit DarlingFirm.com.This blog is for informational purposes and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.