Warrantless GPS Tracking OK Under Good Faith Exception

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on April 23, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on warrantless GPS tracking, an Eighth Circuit feeder court has ruled that evidence gathered by DEA agents from warrantless GPS tracking can be admitted in court, under the "good faith" exception.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the warrantless attachment of a GPS tracking device on a suspect's car constituted an unreasonable search.

Now, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Bennett has ruled that such evidence can be submitted in court in the case against alleged drug trafficker Angel Amaya, since the DEA agents were acting in good faith at the time the evidence was gathered.

Specifically, the agents were acting on what was acceptable in the Eighth Circuit at the time. Under Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals precedent, the use of warrantless GPS trackers was permissible.

Warrantless GPS tracking has been ruled legal by three circuits-- the Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits. Despite the fact that the Supreme Court overturned these rulings, the good faith exception allows the SCOTUS ruling to be dodged for pending cases.

Last year, DEA agents placed GPS trackers on nine vehicles in an effort to crack down on a drug trafficking ring in Iowa.

The good-faith exception stems from Davis v. United States, a Supreme Court case. In that case, the exception applies in situations where a search reasonably relied on binding precedents that were later found faulty.

The case stands a good chance of making it to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, as the larger issue is not about the propriety of the warrantless GPS tracking, but of the construction of the Davis case and its overall applicability.

With a lack of uniformity among the circuits, the GPS tracking cases might very well be revisited by the U.S. Supreme Court in the future.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard