Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, March 18, 2019


Page 1


Ninth Circuit:

Placing GPS Device on Parolee’s Car Requires No Warrant


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held Friday that the Fourth Amendment rights of a suspect were not violated when Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies, acting without a warrant, put a GPS tracking device on his car, and monitored his movements, because, as a parolee, he was subject to warrantless, suspicionless searches of his person, residence, and property under his control.

 The court also rejected the contention by bank robber Kyle Korte that a search of the trunk of his car was impermissible because it was not property that was under his control. In the trunk, there was found a toy gun used on one of his recent bank robberies.

Circuit Judge John B. Owens wrote the opinion which affirms Korte’s conviction and the order by District Court Judge Josephine L. Staton of the Central District of California denying his suppression motions.

Generally, Owens said, a warrant is needed to install a GPS tracker on a vehicle because it constitutes a search. But, he pointed out, California Penal Code §3067(b)(3) provides that a parolee “is subject to search or any time of the day or night, with or without a search warrant or with or without cause.”

Inapplicability to Parolees

The U.S. Supreme Court in its 2014 decision in Riley v. California held that the search of an arrestee’s cell phone was unlawful, he recited, but noted that the Ninth Circuit held in 2017 in U.S. v. Johnson that Riley does not apply to parolees. He commented:

“In light of our ruling in Johnson, we are hard-put to say that the warrantless placement of a GPS tracker on a parolee’s car is impermissible. If an officer can conduct a warrantless search of a parolee’s cell phone[,]…placing a GPS device on a parolee’s car cannot logically demand more constitutional protection.”

He went on to say:

“The State’s interest in supervising parolees is also particularly strong here….Tracking a parolee’s movements by car can be a critical tool for monitoring this group. Its value is well illustrated here: Korte returned to a life of crime just months after his release from prison, but LASD was able to investigate Korte and prevented other armed robberies by tracking his movements.”

Search of Trunk

With respect to the search of the trunk, Owens said that Korte’s control over the automobile extended to the trunk, permitting a warrantless search of it, explaining:

“Generally, a lawful search of a fixed space or premise extends to its entire area, whether or not that requires opening a confined space….

“As property under his control. Korte fails to explain how searching his car’s trunk would offend the Fourth Amendment when a warrantless search of his home—the apex of constitutionally protected places—would not.”

Officers obtained cell-site location information in connection with Korte, doing so prior to last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carpenter v. United States. There, it was held that a warrant is needed to obtain such information.

Exception Properly Applied

Owens said Staton properly applied the “good faith” exception to the exclusionary rule in declining to suppress the evidence. No stance was taken as to whether Carpenter is inapplicable to parolees in California.

In her concurring opinion, Nelson expressed concern over “the ever ‘diminishing’ reasonable expectation of privacy afforded to probationers and parolees, especially as it relates to their digital privacy” and said it is time for the U.S. Supreme Court to “revisit the degree of protection the Fourth Amendment affords probationers and parolees.”

The case is U.S. v. Korte, No. 18-50051.


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