GPS Ruling Could Affect Investigations

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A private investigator on Thursday said that the use of GPS trackers was a common practice among investigators.

GPS devices easily can be slid underneath vehicles, 10 Investigates’ Paul Aker reported.

“They’re using them all the time,” private investigator Al Smith said.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that using GPS tracking units without warrants violates the U.S. Constitution and evidence gained from the unlawful use of the units could be thrown out in court.

Sudina Johnson currently is serving a 15-year sentence after police used a GPS device to bust him with 7 kilograms of cocaine.

Johnson’s attorney, Bill Gallagher, recently argued the GPS issue in front of the Ohio Supreme Court, Aker reported.

Gallagher said that he knew of at least six Ohio cases on appeal and maybe more at the trial level that could be thrown out given the new ruling.

“I am extremely thrilled for my client, Mr. Johnson,” Gallagher said. “But I think I am also for people who are concerned about their privacy and whether police officers can just on a whim follow them wherever they go.”

Constitutional law professor Dan Kobil submitted a brief in favor of Johnson’s argument, Aker reported.

Kobil says while the Supreme Court’s ruling is an important one, it leaves questions about the same technology on other platforms, like the GPS units in many smart phone and OnStar systems in cars.

“And are they violating your privacy by obtaining those records? And the court said we are not going to answer that today,” Kobil said.

Officials with the Columbus Division of Police said that they did not have to worry about the new ruling because officials always have gotten warrants for tracking devices.

Prosecutors said warrants, like ones needed in tracking cases, were easy to get and that police should have been requesting them all along.

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