Bill for GPS tracking of stolen vehicles without a warrant moving through Minnesota legislature

A bill that would allow law enforcement agencies to use GPS tracking on stolen vehicles without a search warrant or permission from the vehicle’s owner has passed through the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee.

Under current state law, authorities can use GPS tracking devices with a warrant or the consent of the vehicle’s owner.

The bill’s author, Rep. Kelly Moller (DFL-Shoreview), told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it would give law enforcement the chance to respond more quickly to carjackings. Also, officers could end potentially dangerous pursuits by instead tracking vehicles and apprehending the suspect at a later time.

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Moller’s bill says law enforcement would have to stop using the GPS tracking device after a vehicle was recovered or after 24 hours, whichever would come first.

“We also wanted to make sure this wasn’t going to be a tool that law enforcement was going to use to like, track this stolen car indefinitely to follow a suspect to figure out who are they talking to, where are they going next, to follow them for a week or something like that,” said Moller.

Ramsey County Undersheriff Mike Martin told lawmakers officers could deploy GPS tracking monitors from inside their squads to attach them to the back of a vehicle, making dangerous pursuits unnecessary at times.

“We can back off, we can all monitor on our phones where that car is, and then we’re not involved in a reckless chase, or a chase that endangers the public,” Martin said.

The bill passed the Public Safety Committee unanimously with bipartisan support after concerns about its constitutionality were assuaged by support from the Minnesota Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

However, Hamline University Law professor David Schultz told KSTP there’s precedent to overcome due to similar rulings concerning the use of GPS tracking data without a warrant.

“We know a few years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a warrant is required if police are going to place a tracking device on a car for the purposes of trying to track where the car is going to go,” said Schultz. “So, this bill might violate that precedent and might violate the Fourth Amendment.”

The bill now goes to the House floor for a full vote.

Follow the movement of other major bills with KSTP’s Minnesota Legislative Tracker.