EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 13, 2014

Editorial: A look at what others are saying

The following are excerpts from editorials in other newspapers across New England:

Lawmakers and the courts must move swiftly to address the civil rights implications of emerging technology in an ever more connected age.

A federal appeals court turned aside an appeal by lawyers arguing that evidence from a GPS device planted on a defendant’s car in Vermont without a search warrant was improperly allowed in a trial.

Common sense would seem to dictate that law enforcement would need court permission to use a device as intrusive as a GPS to track a suspect.

But what seems like common sense was not the law in 2009, when an agent from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration placed a GPS device on then-drug suspect Stephen T. Aguiar’s car.

Aguiar was convicted in 2011 of conspiracy and distributing cocaine in 2008 and 2009. Evidence from the GPS tracking was also introduced in the trials of William Murray and Corey Whitcomb, both convicted on lesser charges.

That didn’t happen until 2012 when the Supreme Court ruled that police must obtain a search warrant before placing GPS tracking devices on a vehicle.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t rule that planting a GPS device on vehicles to track movements amounts to a search, thus requiring a court-approved search warrant, until three years after Vermont incident.

The ruling, in effect, says that in 2009 the law had yet to catch up to the growing use of a technology by law enforcement.

The high court ruling shows how interpretation of the law can adapt to the spread of new technology, but the pace needs to pick up. The pace of innovation today means that several generations of a technology can come online in three years with new challenges.

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