Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Future of Warrantless GPS Tracking in Doubt

DE - A criminal case making its way to the Delaware Supreme Court could help define personal privacy and set limits on how far police can go when using electronic surveillance in Delaware and perhaps across the United States.

The American Civil Liberties Union this week filed a brief in Delaware v. Michael D. Holden, urging the state justices to uphold a lower court ruling that essentially bars police from using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to track people without a court-approved warrant.

Holden, 28 of Newark, was suspected of being a drug dealer and was electronically tracked for more than 20 days by police without a warrant, ending with his arrest after police discovered 10 pounds of marijuana in his vehicle after he visited a suspected drug distribution house. The judge in the case tossed out the drug evidence, ruling that the lengthy warrantless tracking of Holden amounted to an illegal search.

In its brief, the ACLU notes the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet ruled on this issue and legal experts agreed the state case could be part of a growing national debate over the reach of technology versus the boundaries of privacy.

The case will likely turn on the concept of the "reasonable expectation of privacy," said defense attorney and former prosecutor Peter N. Letang. (more)