Thursday, May 14, 2009

Warrant Required for Police to Place a GPS Device on Someone's Vehicle

By a 4-3 vote, the Court of Appeals held in People v Weaver (5/12/09) that the New York Constitution requires that a warrant issued upon probable cause be issued before the police can monitor someone's whereabouts by surreptitiously attaching an electronic device (GPS) to that person's automobile. An excellent summary and analysis of Weaver can be found at New York Court Watcher.

A contrary holding would mean that police without warrants or cause could attach such devices to all vehicles in New York and record the minute by minute location of every vehicle. There may be places where that is acceptable. Thankfully, New York is not one of them.


  1. The article linked to is a refreshingly frank exposition on the Supreme Court's 4th Amendment jurisprudence. The author doesn't refer to them as the "Supreme" Court, but we get the message anyway.

  2. A special shout-out to Richard D. Willstatter, New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and NACDL Amicus Curiae Chair, who came across Weaver case while conducting research on another case. He contacted Weaver’s counsel and initiated NACDL's and NYSACDL's joint amicus effort, which expanded to include other amici such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the Union for Reform Judaism. The resulting, very fine brief, can be found here:$FILE/gps.pdf