Should The Government Have To Tell You About That GPS It Installed On Your Car?

Now here’s a prickly issue: should the government have to obtain a warrant in order to slap a GPS tracking device on your car as you drive around town doing whatever? A federal appeals court says yes, in fact, the government does have to obtain a warrant, if for no other reason than a “reasonable person does not expect anyone to monitor and retain a record of every time he drives his car, including his origin, route, destination and each place he stops and how long he stays there.”

This all stems from a Washington, DC case in which a three-judge panel reversed a man’s life sentence. In the case that led to his sentence, the government had used evidence gathered from a GPS tracking device planted on the man’s car. Without that data, the case wouldn’t have amounted to much.

But let’s not dwell too much on the specifics of this case, and instead think of the larger issue. Let’s say you park your car in your driveway, and the police come by, attach a GPS device (without telling you, of course), then gather evidence of your wrongdoing. They then use this evidence to convict you of wrongdoing.

The appeals court decided that no, that would violate your “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

You could, of course, choose to live a crime-free life, but I suppose that’s not what’s being discussed here.