In a putative class action complaint filed last Friday, New York City cab drivers sued the City of New York, Mayor Bloomberg and others, over what they claim to be an invasion of their Fourth Amendment rights. The suit alleges that use of GPS in cabs to police over-billing constitutes a warrantless search of cab drivers suspected of no wrongdoing.
Because GPS tracking is a search under the federal and state constitutions, use of GPS technology to track individuals must be authorized by a warrant based on probable cause or by a recognized exception to the warrant requirement. Nevertheless, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has prosecuted hundreds of individuals for overcharging passengers. . . [often] on the basis of GPS tracking evidence, without even a single complaining witness complaining or testifying against them.
Though in prior instances federal courts have dismissed similar cases, the plaintiffs in their complaint cite to the recent Supreme Court case U.S. v. Jones as giving new life to Fourth Amendment challenges to the use of GPS.
In United States v. Jones, 132 S.Ct. 945 (2012), a decision issued on January 23, 2012, the United States Supreme Court held the that the state’s installation of a GPS device in a vehicle and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements constitutes a “search” under the Fourth Amendment to the Federal Constitution. In 2009, the New York Court of Appeals had reached the same conclusion in People v. Weaver, 12 N.Y.2d 433, 882 N.Y.S.2d 357 (2009).
(For more, see this Bloomberg Businessweek article.)