The ruling came in a 2003 case involving Michael Sveum, a Madison man who was under investigation for stalking. Police got a warrant to put a GPS on his car and secretly attached it while the vehicle was parked in Sveum's driveway. The device recorded his car's movements for five weeks before police retrieved it and downloaded the information.
Sveum, 41, argued the tracking violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. He argued the device followed him into areas out of public view, such as his garage.
Police obtained a warrant to use a GPS device on a suspect's vehicle to track his movements. (I'm OK with this, its court supervised surveillance.) The perp challenges the legality of the warrant.
The delivered judgment?
Wisconsin police can attach GPS to cars to secretly track anybody's movements without obtaining search warrants, an appeals court ruled Thursday.
Not only was the warrant legal, it was unnecessary! What the hell? How did they get from A to B? Before the judgment, it appears that the police believed they needed a warrant to install a GPS. Because of this case, they now know they do not need one. (Only in Wisconsin? Are there other jurisdictions with similar laws where such a ruling could be made?)
The one lesson here? Beware of unintended consequences!