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Phone tracking warrant denied by Maryland federal judge

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The Judicial Update

August 31, 2011

Maryland: U.S. District Judge Susan Gauvey of the District of Maryland recently decided to deny a phone tracking warrant to federal agents. The agents were searching for a suspect and wanted to use his phone's GPS data to find him. But when they came to court to ask for the warrant, they were denied because, as the judge explained, they were seeking the warrant "not to collect evidence of a crime, but solely to locate a charged defendant." This, the defense attorney argued, was against the law in Maryland. The attorney stated that in order to issue a search warrant there must be "a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place." Judge Gauvey explained that law enforcement would still be able to pursue the case without the warrant and that her ruling "places them within the Constitutional and statutory framework which balances citizens' rights of privacy against government's protection of society".

Similar cases involving GPS tracking have been handled differently in other states. However, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to take up a case involving whether or not law enforcement can use GPS devices on cars to track suspects without warrants. This could set a precedent that would determine the course of future GPS tracking practices.[1]