Can Arizona Police Use GPS to Track Your Vehicle Without Getting a Warrant?

Many of us use GPS on a weekly, if not daily, basis to help us navigate to businesses, restaurants, and homes of friends we have never been to before. You might be surprised to learn that Arizona police use GPS on a regular basis, too, as a tool to track your vehicle! Is this legal? What can you do if you are arrested after Arizona police use GPS to track your location?

The U.S. Supreme Court Says They Need a Warrant.

The good news it that the United States Supreme Court has held that police need a warrant to use GPS to track a car or other vehicle that you own. This is because the Court said that this kind of GPS tracking is a search under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Intuitively, this makes sense: we all know from our personal GPS use that this information can pinpoint our exact location, and that many GPS apps and devices also store information on exactly what time we were in a specific location, and how long we spent there.

…But the Arizona Supreme Court Has Recognized Some Exceptions.

The bad news is that the Arizona Supreme Court muddied the waters on this issue in a case it decided earlier this year. The case involved the police using GPS to track a suspected drug trafficker. Both the driver and the passenger were arrested. The passenger alleged that his Fourth Amendment reasonable search rights had been violated as the police did not have a warrant.

Unfortunately, the Arizona Supreme Court sided with the government and upheld the defendant’s conviction. They said that because the police relied on old case law allowing them to track without a warrant, they acted properly. However, the Arizona Supreme Court also said that, in future situations, the police need to obtain a warrant before using GPS tracking.

What Does This Mean for My Rights?

Whether you are a driver or passenger in a car and you do not know that the police are using GPS to track that car, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy while traveling in that car. This means that the police must get a search warrant for probable cause in order to track you, or that they can track the vehicle only with your or the driver’s consent.

Are There Any Exceptions?

Of course, there are some exceptions. One of these is known as “exigent circumstances,” which applies when law enforcement believe there is no time to get a warrant because evidence could be destroyed. Another is “public safety,” which applies if police believe there is an imminent threat to the public or someone’s life because of the situation, they can track your vehicle without a warrant.

Arrested After Being GPS Tracked?

The bottom line is that, while the police technically need to get a warrant to track your location using GPS, there are several exceptions allowing them to do so without a warrant. Your rights and your privacy matter, and if you have been arrested as a result of GPS tracking our attorneys serving the Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Yuma, Flagstaff, and Glenndale areas are ready to defend you in court. Contact Arizona Lawyers today.