Third Circuit Rules on Use of GPS Technology

This short post is not the promised second part of my intended series on what the Seventh Circuit did during your summer vacation. But, it may interest those of you who follow developments in the criminal law.   In a much-anticipated decision with parallels to United States v. Brown, 744 F.3d 474, 476 (7th Cir. 2014), the en banc Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held today that pre-Jones warrantless use of GPS to collect data about a suspect did not require suppression of the GPS-evidence under the exclusionary rule.  The case is United States v. Katzin, No. 12-2548 (3d Cir. Oct. 1, 2014).

According to the Court, officers using GPS technology to collect data without a warrant before the Supreme Court’s decision in Jones could rely in good faith on the Supreme Court’s pre-Jones decisions in Knotts and Karo.  These decisions involved older “beeper” technology. It was not necessary to a finding of good faith that there be binding appellate precedent directly addressing the newer GPS technology.

The Katzin opinion generally emphasizes the breadth of the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule and puts forward an interpretation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Davis v. United States, 131 S. Ct. 2419 (2011), that is consistent with such a broad reading.  Indeed, according to a dissenting opinion, the decision “expands the good faith exception to the point of eviscerating the exclusionary rule altogether” and will “embolden” law enforcement officers to behave as though the good faith exception “will extricate [them] from nearly any evidentiary conundrum.”

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Jonathan Koenig

    Full disclosure: I represented the government in Brown (my day job).

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