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GPS Track Doesn’t Give Felon a Claim, Court Says

CHICAGO (CN) - The 7th Circuit will not rehear claims that police violated a man's rights by tracking his vehicle via GPS and ignoring his demands to see an attorney.

On Nov. 9, 2009, two black men robbed the Farmers & Merchants Bank in Burlington, Iowa, and took $44,000 cash. Based on a tip, Burlington detectives attached a GPS surveillance tracking device on the vehicle of Matthew Martin. When Martin was pulled over in Warren County, Ill., officers found small quantities of marijuana and cocaine in the car and a silver revolver under the hood.

During an interview with Chief Deputy Bruce Morath at the police station, Martin waived his Miranda rights and denied knowledge of the drugs and gun in his car.

Martin changed his tune when Morath asked if he would be willing to provide a written statement.

After Martin said, "I'd rather talk to an attorney first before I do that," Morath ended the interview and returned Martin to lockup before going home.

Two to three hours later, two Burlington detectives arrived to interview Martin about the bank robbery. Unaware that Martin had invoked his right to an attorney, the detectives apprised Martin of Miranda rights. Martin waived his rights again and told detectives that he had loaned a gun to the other suspect in the robbery.

At trial, Martin moved to suppress statements made during the second interview, claiming that they were barred by the Supreme Court's ruling in Edwards v. Arizona. The Edwards rule stops further interrogation after a suspect has invoked his right to counsel unless the accuse initiates further communication.

In January 2012, however, a divided 7th Circuit panel ruled that Martin's Fifth Amendment invocation applied only to the request for a written statement.

Martin requested a rehearing en banc, and added Fourth Amendment claims in light of the Supreme Court recent landmark GPS ruling in U.S. v. Jones .

In Jones, the Supreme Court held that police need a warrant before using GPS to track a suspect.

On remand of Martin's case, U.S. District Judge Michael Mihm ruled that Martin could raise the Fourth Amendment issues, but found that the officer's "good faith reliance on then-existing precedent" cut against application of the exclusionary rule.

The 7th Circuit overruled this reasoning on appeal Monday, writing that the exception should only apply to "a search conducted in objectively reasonable reliance on binding appellate precedent." (Emphasis in original.)

"We reject the government's invitation to allow police officers to rely on a diffuse notion of the weight of authority around the country, especially where that amorphous opinion turns out to be incorrect in the Supreme Court's eyes," the unsigned opinion states.

Martin's appeal still fails, however, because the evidence he seeks to suppress "had little to do with the fact that a GPS device had been used at all," the court noted.

"Put differently, [the evidence] was significantly 'attenuated' from the improper installation of the device" because officers already had probable cause for Martin's arrest based on the tip, according to the ruling.

The judges added: "The GPS data here appears simply to have aided law enforcement officials in tracking down Martin when they decided to effect his arrest. This is quite different from the situation in Jones, where the GPS data was used to establish a necessary link between the defendant and a cocaine stash house."

The 7th Circuit denied rehearing because all of the judges on the original panel voted to deny rehearing and no active judge requested a vote on the petition.

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