Privacy vs Criminality

Remember the case of someone in California who objected to having a GPS device attached to his bumper? I wrote about that last summer. At the time, I said:

Does it seem, on the surface, that the individual was doing some bad (illegal) stuff and should pay for it? Absolutely. Is his appeal an attempt to find anything which will free him, and thereby entirely self-serving? Undoubtedly.

All of that aside, the point would seem to be a  valid one. If you cannot have a reasonable expectation of privacy on your own property, then where could you? It does seem very likely that this appeal will be making its way to the Supreme Court. When it does, one would hope that the justices would understand that one of the reasons we have a rule of law (rather than the rule of rulers) is that the rulers–including law enforcement–are restrained from doing anything they wish without regard to the life, liberty and property of the citizens.

The context for this story was that the device was attached while the vehicle was parked in his private driveway. It seemed that law enforcement had overstepped its bounds. Now, South Dakota has its own case of a similar sort. However, the facts are just different enough to make the lawyers happy:

A South Dakota man convicted on drug charges says police violated his rights by putting a satellite tracking device on his vehicle.

Elmer Zahn of Gettysburg and his attorney argued before the state Supreme Court that the GPS device violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. State prosecutors dispute that. Supreme Court justices will rule later.

The article goes on to state that the device was placed on his vehicle when it was on public property and that the vehicle was then tracked on public roads–so law enforcement (and the prosecution) believe that there is no privacy issue.

P&R thinks there probably was no warrant–and that lacking a warrant there is a problem:

The government does not have the right to simply, on a whim, track my movements like this any more than they would have the right to tap my phones.

Further, I would see an issue (though legally not so strong) with the bit about the vehicle being tagged on public property and only tracked on public roads. It is possible that the individual parked in a public space because that is what was available  to him–and that he did not have access to a private parking space. I don’t know. As far as only being tracked on public roads, did the person never turn into a private driveway? Are the storage unit areas not private space?

While I understand the state’s need to use available tools for apprehension and prosecution of criminals, do we not need to be very very careful about how those tools are implemented? I believe so.