(CN) – Police cannot a track a suspect’s vehicle with a global positioning system (GPS) device without obtaining a warrant, the New York Court of Appeals ruled.
Latham police were investigating a series of burglaries when they attached a GPS device to the bumper of a suspect’s van.
The police used the information from the van to charge the Scott Weaver with burglaries at a K-Mart and a local meat market.
In order to obtain this information, the police attached the device at night, and they returned on a different night to change the batteries.
Weaver was acquitted of the meat market burglary but convicted of the K-Mart crime.
Weaver appealed his conviction, claiming that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated by the placement of the GPS.
The appellate division had rejected Weaver’s appeal, claiming that a GPS is akin to a police officer tailing a vehicle.
Judge Lippman overturned the decision, noting that a GPS offers police the equivalent of “a million police officers with cameras on every street lamp.”
“The great popularity of GPS technology,” Lippman added, “may not be taken simply as a massive, undifferentiated concession of personal privacy to agents of the state.”
Lippman stated that the decision applied to the New York Constitution, as the U.S. Supreme Court as not made a similar ruling regarding federal law.
Lippman ordered a new trial with the GPS evidence suppressed.
The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) praised the court’s decision.
“Placing a GPS device on a car is like allowing an invisible police officer to ride in the back seat,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU.