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    Washington Post: Virginia court rules suspect’s rights weren’t violated by warrantless GPS tracking

    The Washington Post reports on a case in Virginia involving warrantless tracking of suspect through the use of GPS technology. In its opinion (pdf) for Foltz vs. Virginia, the Virginia Court of Appeals considered the right to privacy.

    The rights of a convicted sex offender [David L. Foltz], who was being tracked as a suspect in a string of sexual assaults, were not violated when Fairfax County police secretly placed a global positioning system device on his vehicle without a warrant, the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday. The ruling creates a precedent in Virginia, but only adds to conflicting rulings about whether putting a GPS tracking device on someone’s car violates that person’s right to privacy. […]

    But a federal appeals court in California ruled in January that the tracking of an Oregon man with a GPS device was legal, as did a federal appeals court in Illinois in 2007. In the latter ruling, Judge Richard A. Posner wrote: “One can imagine the police affixing GPS tracking devices to thousands of cars at random, recovering the devices, and using digital search techniques to identify suspicious driving patterns. One can even imagine a law requiring all new cars to come equipped with the device so that the government can keep track of all vehicular movement in the United States.”

    Judge Randolph A. Beales, writing the appeals court’s opinion, said, “the actual act of simply placing the GPS device in the bumper of [Foltz’s] work van conveyed no private information to the police and because [Foltz] did nothing to prevent the public from observing the bumper, we find he did not exhibit an expectation of privacy in this area of the van.”

    Beales also said that “the police used the GPS device to crack this case by tracking appellant on the public roadways — which they could, of course, do in person any day of the week at any hour without obtaining a warrant. . . . As observing a person’s work van on the public streets is not unconstitutional, the police’s use of the GPS system to track [Foltz] while he was in the van on the public streets likewise did not violate the Fourth Amendment.”

    2 Responses to “Washington Post: Virginia court rules suspect’s rights weren’t violated by warrantless GPS tracking”

    1. Repeal_The_Va_Radar_Detector_Ban Says:

      As you may know, Virginia is the only state that bans the use and sale of detectors. There is no evidence that the detector ban increases highway safety. Our nation’s fatality rates have fallen consistently for almost two decades. Virginia’s fatality rate has also fallen, but not any more dramatically than it has nationwide. Research has even shown that radar detector owners have a lower accident rate than motorists who do not own a detector.

      Maintaining the ban is not in the best interest of Virginians or visitors to the state. I know and know of people that will not drive in Virginia due to this ban. Unjust enforcement practices are not unheard of, and radar detectors can keep safe motorists from being exploited by abusive speed traps. Likewise, the ban has a negative impact on Virginia’s business community. Electronic distributors lose business to neighboring states and Virginia misses out on valuable sales tax revenue.

      Radar detector bans do not work. Research and experience show that radar detector bans do not result in lower accident rates, improved speed-limit compliance or reduce auto insurance expenditures.
      • The Virginia radar detector ban is difficult and expensive to enforce. The Virginia ban diverts precious law enforcement resources from more important duties.
      • Radar detectors are legal in the rest of the nation, in all 49 other states. In fact, the first state to test a radar detector ban, Connecticut, repealed the law – it ruled the law was ineffective and unfair. It is time for our Virginia to join the rest of the nation.
      • It has never been shown that radar detectors cause accidents or even encourage motorists to drive faster than they would otherwise. The Yankelovich – Clancy – Shulman Radar Detector Study conducted in 1987, showed that radar detector users drove an average of 34% further between accidents (233,933 miles versus 174,554 miles) than non radar detector users. The study also showed that they have much higher seat belt use compliance. If drivers with radar detectors have fewer accidents, it follows that they have reduced insurance costs – it is counterproductive to ban radar detectors.
      • In a similar study performed in Great Britain by MORI in 2001 the summary reports that “Users (of radar detectors) appear to travel 50% further between accidents than non-users. In this survey the users interviewed traveling on average 217,353 miles between accidents compared to 143,401 miles between accidents of those non-users randomly drawn from the general public.” The MORI study also reported “Three quarters agree, perhaps unsurprisingly, that since purchasing a radar detector they have become more conscious about keeping to the speed limit…” and “Three in five detector users claim to have become a safer driver since purchasing a detector.”
      • Modern radar detectors play a significant role in preventing accidents and laying the technology foundation for the Safety Warning System® (SWS). Radar detectors with SWS alert motorists to oncoming emergency vehicles, potential road hazards, and unusual traffic conditions. There are more than 10 million radar detectors with SWS in use nationwide. The federal government has earmarked $2.1 million for further study of the SWS over a three-year period of time. The U.S. Department of Transportation is administering grants to state and local governments to purchase the SWS system and study its effectiveness (for example, in the form of SWS transmitters for school buses and emergency vehicles). The drivers of Virginia deserve the right to the important safety benefits that SWS delivers.

      Please sign this petition and help to repeal this ban and give drivers in Virginia the freedom to know if they are under surveillance and to use their property legally:

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