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Is law enforcement allowed to covertly track your movements?

A fundamental privilege that most Americans hold dear is the right to privacy. Most of us would never expect legal authorities to violate this right.

Unfortunately, the police sometimes obtain the right to hide tracking devices on a person or property, especially when investigating drug trafficking or distribution. The law holds that officers may use such devices but must get a warrant in advance.

How do tracking device warrants work?

In South Dakota, authorities must convince a judge they have probable cause to believe a monitoring device will yield evidence proving criminal activity. Probable cause is more than a hunch or belief but less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

If the judge agrees there is probable cause, they will issue a warrant authorizing law enforcement to install and use a tracking device. These warrants must specify who or what may be tracked and the duration of monitoring. With a warrant, the police can install the tracking device without informing the other party.

Can you suppress tracking device evidence?

You may succeed in challenging the evidence obtained through a police-installed monitoring device. Here are two strategies to consider.

  • Improper warrant: Remember, law enforcement must obtain a warrant before they install the device. Showing that the police failed to get the document in advance could help your defense team suppress the evidence.
  • Tracker inaccuracy: Electronic devices are not always accurate, often due to poor maintenance or calibration. Demonstrating device inaccuracies or improper maintenance could help you challenge the evidence successfully.

The supposed existence of technological “proof” causes many facing severe drug charges to believe they have no way to defend themselves. On the contrary, there are always paths to explore in criminal defense, from uncovering police mistakes to proving your innocence outright.