N.D.Ga.: SW for automobile permitted seizure of GPS inside by plain view to report car’s movements
When there was a search warrant for an automobile, the police seized the GPS in the vehicle not named in the search warrant because it was logical that the GPS would be able to provide information about defendant’s movements. United States v. Anyanwu, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 92175 (N.D. Ga. May 15, 2013):
In this case, Defendant does not contest that the officers were lawfully located where they could plainly view the GPS devices when they searched the automobile under the search warrant. Furthermore, it likewise appears that the officers, through their collective knowledge of the case, had probable cause to believe that the GPS devices would contain data that would show the movements of the vehicle, which, in turn, would corroborate other evidence of Defendant’s alleged illegal conduct in traveling to and from meetings where the fraudulent activity was carried on. Thus, although the GPS devices are not contraband, and were not included within the scope of the search warrants, there nevertheless was probable cause upon which the officers could have obtained a warrant to seize and search the devices for evidence of the crimes charged. Under these circumstances, the evidentiary nature of the GPS devices would be considered “immediately apparent,” warranting seizure under the plain view doctrine.
This is wrong and a potentially dangerous case. Can’t the police rationalize a reason to seize GPS out of any vehicle to catalog it’s movements under the guise of plain view? At least here they had a warrant to get in the court, but it would be easy to mold this case to one’s liking to justify seizure of anybody’s GPS to see where the car has been. It should be rejected on appeal.