Warrantless GPS Tracking Decision Upheld in Appeals Court

St. Paul, MN – On Monday the Minnesota Court of Appeals held up a decision made by a district court saying it is unconstitutional for law enforcement officers to install GPS tracking devices on vehicles without a warrant.

According to The Star Tribune this decision came after a 5-year investigation by the Department of Natural Resources, “resulting in one of the highest-profile poaching cases in the state in recent years.”  Prosecutors charged Joshua Dwight Liebl with 13 counts related to poaching after a DNR officer used a judge’s order to install a GPS tracking device on Liebl’s vehicle.

The decision reads, “We affirm the district court’s order suppressing evidence and dismissing criminal charges against respondent, because law enforcement’s installation and monitoring of a global positioning system mobile tracking device on respondent’s vehicle was an unreasonable search requiring suppression of the resulting evidence on which evidence the charges were based.”

Appeals Court Judge John Smith writes, “Because the tracking order was not based on a probable-cause finding by the issuing court, the tracking order was not a valid substitute for a search warrant.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota told the Star Tribune that it is still legal for law enforcement to put GPS tracking on a vehicle if they get a warrant and demonstrate probable cause.

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