Hopefully, something will be done about this, but don't expect the Wisconsin judicial system to help. The state's appellate court has approved the use of GPS tracking systems by law enforcement, where the cops place GPS trackers on cars -- without a warrant, and without anyone being labeled a suspect.
In Wisconsin, apparently, the cops can track anyone, anytime - just because they want to do so. Yes, you read that right. In Wisconsin, right now, any motor vehicle on the road could have a GPS tracker on it - legally - even if the owner doesn't know it, and even if the owner is not a suspect for any crime.
What about the right to privacy? What about due process prohibitions against illegal search and seizure?
Wisconsin appeals court passes the buck to the State Legislature
The Wisconsin 4th Court of Appeals couldn't help -- they heard the case, and decided it wasn't a violation of the 4th Amendment (which prohibits illegal search and seizure). Their idea was that as long as the car went along in public places, where the cops could follow it, then there wasn't a problem - the GPS wasn't telling the cops anything more than they'd know anyway from physical surveillance.
Except that the car in question did go into private places. And, except that the placement of a devise on someone's personal property without their permission - for the purpose of watching them - is wrong, without due process.
Now, to be fair, the Wisconsin court did voice some concerns here. They wanted us to know that they didn't like what they were doing. But instead of doing something themselves, they suggested that the Wisconsin Legislature do something.
Is this it? Let's hope not.
Of course, there's a lot of brouhaha about this decision. The ACLU is arguing that this violates privacy laws, for one thing. Maybe we haven't heard the last of this. Hopefully, that Wisconsin appellate court decision can be reviewed by the state's high court (I haven't researched the scheme of things in Wisconsin's judicial system to know what court grades the papers of the 4th Court of Appeals in Madison, Wisconsin.) And, there's always federal court, you know....
This law getting this far is troubling.
Meanwhile, this is a valid law on the books. And, I think we should all be worried just because it's made it this far.
It doesn't seem like rocket science to me that it is just plain wrong for a cop to sneak up to a car and put a GPS tracker on it, just because he wants to do so. And to do so without a warrant -- which is in essence, a judge double-checking and approving the cop's desire to invade a person's right to privacy because of a valid legal interest. Plus, to do so without the person being labeled as a suspect of a crime.
What made these cops think this was okay? What made these courts let this scoot on by?
And, here in Texas -- wouldn't we just love this? What with all our gunrunning, human trafficking, and drug distribution problems down here?
Heck, why don't we just sell cars with power steering, anti-lock brakes, and a GPS tracker for the cops built right it? Oh, yeah, we do.
If you have a navigation system, like OnStar or TomTom in your car, you're already trackable now. Same goes for your smartphones. Of course, right now, the cops need a warrant to gain access to that personal information - they've got to have paperwork to tote over to the OnStar folks or the TomTom folks, to gain access to that information. But they can do it, technologically. And, with this Wisconsin precedent, it's really just a small step from needing a warrant to ... well, NOT.
Scary stuff, isn't it?