In a December 29, 2016 decision, Minnesota Judge Jacqueline Regis of the Fourth Circuit issued a ruling that will temporarily prevent ignition interlock devices from being installed in the cars of those accused or convicted of DUI in Minnesota. At issue was the fact the interlock devices approved for use by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety were capable of GPS tracking, which raises serious privacy concerns.
The Interlock Program and GPS Tracking
The Interlock Program prevents impaired driving by restricting vehicles from starting if the interlock device detects an alcohol level greater than or equal to 0.02. The efficacy of these devices is clear—they reduce incidents of driving while intoxicated. But there is no reason for the devices to include GPS tracking that violates the rights of those ordered to use them following a DUI arrest.
The devices generated “a precise, comprehensive record of a person’s public movements that reflects a wealth of detail about her familial, political, professional, religious, and sexual associations.” The court opinion also noted that “the Government can store such records and efficiently mine them for information years into the future.” This GPS tracking was thus a major intrusion into the privacy of anyone that had one installed in their car.
Although Minnesota lacks a data privacy statute that would prohibit police from collecting this information, privacy rights are protected by the United States and Minnesota constitutions. As the opinion in this case stated:
“The right to privacy is an integral part of our humanity; one has a public persona, exposed and active, and a private persona, guarded and preserved. The heart of our liberty is choosing which parts of our lives shall become public and which parts we shall hold close.”
The Fourth Amendment
Of particular relevance in this case was the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects people from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” A Fourth Amendment violation occurs when the government violates a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. Judge Regis held “The government’s installation of a GPS tracking device on a vehicle without a search warrant is an illegal search under the Fourth Amendment.”
The court in this case correctly surmised that nobody would expect their every movement to be tracked just because they were ordered to have an interlock device installed. In other words, including GPS tracking capabilities in interlock devices constitutes an unreasonable search into a person’s private life. As such, installing them is unconstitutional.
Court Orders GPS Tracking Devices Cannot Be Installed
The court granted the injunctive order temporarily banning installation of the GPS tracking devices. The temporary injunction will be in place until the court makes a final decision sometime later this year. While we can’t know for sure, it seems likely that the GPS tracking devices will be permanently banned from interlock devices when the final decision is made.
Contact the Kans Law Firm, LLC For More Information
Attorney Douglas T. Kans practices exclusively in criminal defense and has extensive experience representing DUI defendants in Minnesota. He is dedicated to getting the best possible outcome for his clients. Doug has been practicing for over 20 years and offers free consultation.