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TMCNet:  GPS device put on drug suspect's car by DEA was legal [Legal Monitor Worldwide]

[December 14, 2013]

GPS device put on drug suspect's car by DEA was legal [Legal Monitor Worldwide]

(Legal Monitor Worldwide Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) An appeals court has turned aside an claim that a federal agent needed a search warrant before placing a GPS device on a suspected drug dealer's car in Burlington to monitor where the vehicle went and to identify alleged co-conspirators.


Lawyers for Stephen T. Aguiar, William Murray and Corey Whitcomb had argued that evidence the device provided to Drug Enforcement Administration agents should not have been used at their trials.

The defense lawyers, in papers filed with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, contended the decision by U.S. District Court Judge William K. Sessions III to allow the GPS evidence to be heard at trial violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Aguiar was convicted in 2011 of conspiracy and distributing five kilos of cocaine in the Burlington area in 2008 and 2009. Murray was sentenced to 100 months and Whitcomb, 33 months on lesser charges.

"The GPS device was used to track Aguiar's vehicles on public thoroughfares, with technology undertaking an activity that police officers would have physically performed in the past," the appeals court wrote in a 28-page ruling made public Friday.

The appellate court acknowledged that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the planting of such GPS devices on vehicles to monitor movements amounts to a search, thus requiring a court-approved search warrant.

That ruling, however, came three years after the DEA agent in Vermont had put the GPS device on Aguiar's car, at a time when such action was still regarded by the courts as not requiring a warrant.

"Court precedent existed at the time the GPS device was placed for the officers here to reasonably conclude a warrant was not necessary," the appellate court said. "Plainly .. the landscape has changed, and law enforcement will need to change its approach accordingly." Aguiar is currently serving his sentence at the Petersburg (Va.) Federal Correctional Institution. Murray is incarcerated at the Schuylkill Federal Correctional Institution in Minersburg, Pa., and Whitcomb is at a federal resident re-entry management entity in Philadelphia.

part of a probe of the the person's travels and provide informaiton to investigators.when the (c) 2013 Legal Monitor Worldwide. All Rights Reserved. Provided by Syndigate.info, an Albawaba.com company

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