M.D.Ala.: One day’s GPS monitoring reasonable under Knotts, all things considered

A valuable opinion from the Middle District of Alabama on privacy v. property, mosaic theory or not, reasonable expectations of privacy on the open road. The court is constrained to find one day’s GPS tracking was reasonable under Knotts. United States v. Howard, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 198081 (M.D. Ala. Nov. 15, 2019):

In the end, the GPS monitoring in this case was not a search, a conclusion that does not rest on the mosaic theory. Instead, the finding is grounded in the fundamentals of the relevant facts and applicable law. First, there was no trespass; the truck was borrowed, and it came equipped with an owner-approved option: GPS tracking. Second, the surveillance was not for an “extended period of time.” Jones, 565 U.S. at 418 (Alito, J., concurring). Mr. Howard was monitored during a discreet trip over a twenty-two-hour period with a two-way distance of approximately two-hundred miles. The officers had a short, same-day window to decide whether to install the GPS device, secure the owner’s consent, install the device, and ensure Mr. Howard received the truck. They had to do all of this without arousing suspicion, and all for a single out-and-back journey. These trip characteristics fall easily within the province of Knotts.

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