July 11, 2014 By Wallin & Klarich

The U.S. Court of Appeals is currently deciding whether the police need a warrant to put a GPS tracking device in a person’s car.

The case under review stems from a series of pharmacy robberies investigated by Philadelphia police in 2010. After pulling over electrician Harry Katzin, the police found tools, gloves and a ski mask in his van. After Katzin said they were his work tools, he was let go.


However, the police and the FBI then put a GPS tracking device under the bumper of Katzin’s van. After another robbery, the police tracked down the van. They found Katzin and his brothers, Mark and Michael, inside with a large stash of cash, pills and other store property.

At trial, the evidence found in the van was thrown out because the trial judge determined that the warrantless use of a GPS tracking device constituted an illegal search.

A three-judge 3rd Circuit panel heard the case in 2013 and stated that warrants are needed to use a GPS tracking device unless there is an imminent danger found.

The government appealed the decision to the U.S. appeals court. A decision from the appeals court has yet to be made. Meanwhile, the Katzins have pleaded not guilty and remain free on bail.

Why Warrants Should be Needed for GPS Tracking Devices

The Katzin case shows yet another example of the government infringing on our civil liberties. The FBI’s use of the GPS traffic device without a warrant equates to the unconstitutional surveillance of citizens of this country. Without warrants, government agencies would be able to spy on anyone they please for an unlimited period of time. This is an abuse of power that goes beyond their limits and wastes time and expensive resources.

Although warrantless GPS surveillance may seem reasonable in this case to some, a decision to allow this type of activity would allow government agencies too much power that could be abused in other situations.

If government agencies are not held in check, innocent people can be caught in the middle of unwarranted surveillance and unnecessary investigations.

In this case, the FBI did not follow proper procedure and knew that they were infringing on Katzin’s rights. It is noted that before putting the GPS device in Katzin’s van, the FBI sought advice from a federal prosecutor, but not the neutral view of a judge whose job it is to issue search warrants. The FBI likely knew that what they were doing was not within their jurisdiction from the beginning. If the original decision in this case is overturned, the FBI and other government agencies would be allowed to further abuse their power.

Do you think warrants should be needed for GPS tracking devices? Should government agencies be able to use GPS tracking devices in cases other than those that involve “imminent danger?” Feel free to share your opinion with us.

Call the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today

If you or a loved one was arrested without a warrant and are facing criminal charges, it is critical that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience in defending persons charged with crimes due to unlawful police misconduct during the investigation and arrest process. Our attorneys will fight to get you the best possible outcome in your case and protect your constitutional rights.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich Southern California criminal defense attorney near you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.

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