Does removing a GPS tracker from your car – even if police put it there – mean you stole it?
That’s what the state argued in a case heard Thursday by the Indiana Supreme Court.
Warrick County Sheriff’s officers got a warrant last year to put a GPS tracker on Derek Heuring’s car because they thought he was a drug dealer. After a while, the tracker stopped transmitting. And when police went to replace it, they couldn’t find it on the car.
So, officers got a search warrant by arguing Heuring stole the tracker. And when serving that warrant, they found drugs on his property and arrested him.
Indiana’s Supreme Court justices – including Mark Massa – were skeptical of the state’s justification for obtaining the warrant.
“Even if you know it’s the police that are tracking you, you have an obligation to leave it there and let them track you – and if you take it off, you’re somehow subject to a search of your home?” Massa says.
Deputy Attorney General Jesse Drum says yes.
“And the officers did everything they could to try to rule out every innocent explanation,” Drum says.
Heauring's lawyer says the GPS tracker wasn't even marked - it was a "little black box" - and so there wasn't even a way for Heuring to know what it was or who it belonged to. Heuring wants the search warrant thrown out, eliminating the drug evidence from his case.
There’s no timetable for the Supreme Court’s ruling.
If you appreciate this kind of journalism on your local NPR station, please support it by donating at: https://wvpe.thankyou4caring.org/