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People v. Weaver - 2009 NY Slip Op 3762, 12 N.Y.3d 433, 882 N.Y.S.2d 357, 909 N.E.2d 1195

Rule:

Under New York's Constitution, in the absence of exigent circumstances, the installation and use of a GPS device to monitor an individual's whereabouts requires a warrant supported by probable cause.

Facts:

In the early morning hours, a state police investigator crept underneath defendant Scott C. Weaver's street-parked van and placed a GPS tracking device inside the bumper. The device remained in place for 65 days, constantly monitoring the position of the van. The device's battery required replacement during the monitoring period, which resulted in yet another nocturnal visit by the investigator to the van's undercarriage. The nonstop surveillance was conducted without a warrant. Thereafter, the GPS readings were admitted at Scott Weaver's burglary trial in New York state court after Weaver's motion to suppress that evidence was denied.

Issue:

Were Weaver's constitutional rights violated by the warrantless placement and use of the GPS tracking device inside the bumper of his van?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court of Appeals of New York found that the GPS surveillance was not a mere enhancement of human sensory capacity. The residual privacy expectation that Weaver retained in his vehicle, while perhaps small, was at least adequate to support his claim of a violation of his N.Y. Const. art. I, § 12 right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. The search was illegal because it was executed without a warrant and without justification under any exception to the warrant requirement. Accordingly, Weaver's motion to suppress should not have been denied.

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