The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld the use of a GPS tracking device to catch a burglary suspect. In State of Minnesota vs. Sin Santo Bad, the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Department obtained permission from the suspect’s employer to attach a GPS tracking device to a company pick-up truck. The suspect was hired to deliver scrap metal and garbage to a landfill. Police used the GPS tracking device to monitor the suspect driving the company pick-up into a residential neighborhood and parking in an area not visible from the road. When police arrived on the scene, the burglary suspect was found inside the home next to an opened safe with $4,300.00 in cash in his pocket.
The defense argued that the use of the hidden GPS tracking device on the company vehicle was an illegal search since law enforcement failed to obtain a warrant. The defense sought an order suppressing the use at trial of all evidence against the suspect resulting from the burglary. The Minnesota Court of Appeals disagreed. Since the company was the owner of the pick-up truck and had the keys, it had authority to consent to the placement of the hidden GPS tracking device. Valid Consent to a search by a third party is an exception to the search warrant requirement under the Minnesota and United States Constitution. The burglary conviction was upheld on appeal.
Minnesota courts have not yet decided the issue of whether or not the police can attach a hidden GPS tracking device to a car owned by a private citizen. The United States Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in the case of U.S. vs. Antoine Jones, a nightclub owner who was convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. A drug conspiracy case was built against Jones based on the use of a hidden GPS tracking device attached to his vehicle. Stay tuned to this blog for more developments.