The Wisconsin Supreme Court rules that it was okay for police to use GPS tracking on a stalking suspect’s car. The high court Tuesday did not address whether secretly attaching the tracker was unconstitutional but did decide law enforcement acted in accordance by obtaining a search warrant to monitor Michael Sveum’s movement.
In 2003, Sveum was suspected of stalking a woman for whom he’d already been convicted of stalking. Police obtained a search warrant from a Dane County judge to install the tracking device on Sveum’s car. After being convicted of stalking in 2007, he appealed on the grounds that the GPS violated his rights of unlawful search and seizure; and the warrant was not legitimate for GPS tracking.
The appellate court ruled against him claiming because Sveum’s Chevy Berreta was parked in public view, police could’ve obtained the same information by visual surveillance.
However, where the car was parked is of concern to attorney Amelia Bizzaro, who helped file the brief questioning the constitutionality of the GPS monitoring. The vehicle was parked in Sveum’s driveway where law enforcement attached the device and replaced it several times. “As someone who parks in a driveway, not a garage I find that particular concerning,” says the Henak Law Office attorney.
Bizzaro and the ACLU of Wisconsin say the ruling leaves it state legislators to clarify when and how GPS should be used in criminal investigations.
An abuse victims’ advocate applauds the courts action, Patti Seger, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, says the decision gives police a good tool to catch stalkers. She says without it, stalking cases are often hard to prove. “The impact of having a GPS attached to a stalker’s car really places that person at the scene.”
Attorney General JB Van Hollen supports the high court’s ruling, saying officers obtaining of a warrant and investigation procedure ensured, Sveum’s rights were “scrupulously protected.” In a statement, Van Hollen says “GPS technology provides Wisconsin law enforcement officers with another powerful crime-fighting tool.”