What would you do if you found a GPS device that had been secretly attached to your car?
A California student found one on his car and a friend posted photos of it online. Within 48 hours the student received a visit from a fun group known as the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The FBI wanted the device back, which it had been using to track Yasir Afifi for three to six months, the student told Wired.com. The FBI and police showed up at his apartment in Santa Clara, California, demanding its return. The FBI has not confirmed the accuracy of Afifi's statements.
If the case sounds shocking, you should check out the ruling that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently made regarding tracking devices used by police. In short, the court gave a thumbs up to secretly placing tracking devices on suspect's vehicles, without a warrant, even if it is parked in a private driveway. Fourth Amendment rights? Ha.
The device was discovered when Afifi, who is half Egyptian and whose father was an Islamic-American community leader at the Muslim Community Association until his death last year in Egypt, took his vehicle in for an oil change. The ACLU heard about the case after Afifi's pictures went viral on the web. The civil liberties organization is interested in taking the case to challenge the legal validity of the use of GPS trackers in such cases. However according to the article in the Los Angeles Times, an FBI agent said that he was certain that the agents who installed it would have obtained a 30-day warrant for its use.
It will be interesting to see where the case heads and whether the ACLU is able to use it as the test case they have been seeking to challenge the 9th Circuit's ruling. According to Afifi, the strange encounter ended with an even more strange quote from one of the agents: "We have all the information we needed ... You don't need to call your lawyer. Don't worry, you're boring." With that they shook his hand and left, and wisely, Afifi got in touch with his lawyer.
- AOL Not an Agent of Government for Fourth Amendment Purposes (FindLaw)
- "Search and Seizure" and the Fourth Amendment (FindLaw)
- Court OKs Warrantless GPS Tracking (FindLaw's Blotter)
- The Fourth Amendment and Seach Warrants (provided by The Sprano Law Firm, LLP)