GPS Tracker Installation Specifics Fall Outside of Court’s Jurisdiction

A confidential informant (CI) told officers that Faulkner was traveling to and from Chicago to obtain heroin and then sell it in Minneapolis. The CI described Faulkner’s two cars and two residences. During surveillance, officers saw Faulkner driving both cars to and from both residences. The officers obtained a warrant to place GPS trackers on either or both of Faulkner’s vehicles. The warrant specified that the device could be placed on either of Faulkner’s vehicles located in Hennepin County (Minneapolis). The officers ultimately placed the device on one of the vehicles while it was in Ramsey County (St. Paul).

Officers watched Faulkner’s travels with the use of the GPS tracker. They stopped Faulkner when he drove back to Minnesota from Chicago. A search of his person and car yielded a small baggie of marijuana. Officers later obtained search warrants for Faulkner’s Chevy Avalanche and the two residences. Officers found heroin, firearms and ammunition in Faulkner’s bedroom at one residence.

Faulkner asked the court to suppress all evidence from the GPS warrant. He claimed that execution of the warrant (applying the GPS tracker) outside the geographical limitations set forth in the warrant transformed the installation of the GPS tracking device into an unlawful warrantless search, citing United States v. Jones (132 S. Ct. 945 (2012)). The court observed that Jones is really about requiring a warrant for installation of a GPS tracking device on a vehicle. Nothing in the Jones case was particularly helpful to Faulkner is his challenge to the “technical deficiency” of the warrant authorizing a tracker on his vehicles. Therefore, the court denied his request to suppress the evidence.

United States v. Faulkner, 2016 WL 3513995 (8th Cir. 2016)

Ken Wallentine

KEN WALLENTINE is the Chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and former Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He has served over four decades in public safety, is a legal expert and editor of Xiphos, a monthly national criminal procedure newsletter. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and serves as a use of force consultant in state and federal criminal and civil litigation across the nation.

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