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How effective is a GPS Monitor?

In the 2015 legislative session, state Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, introduced a bill to address using GPS data in restraining order cases.

The bill would have allowed a judge to order someone who had violated a restraining order to wear a GPS monitor that would send an alert to law enforcement and warn the victim if the wearer entered an off-limits area.

The bill passed unanimously in the House, but was voted down in the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 6-4 vote.

In Duran’s case, police would have liked such a bill.

Currently, the company overseeing a GPS ankle monitor sends an email to the court’s Pretrial Services Division if a defendant enters a prohibited area. The court then sends a summons to the wearer to appear before a judge.

Police would like to be able to use data from these GPS devices to actually track offenders when they violate restraining orders. But the law surrounding GPS monitoring is murky at best.

Experts disagree on whether that is legal since the person has not been convicted of a crime. The Supreme Court has not addressed the issue.

Adina Schwartz, a law professor at the John Jay College for Criminal Justice, said she thinks police would violate the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches if they tracked a defendant in order to arrest him or her for a new crime.

“You agreed with one particular law enforcement agency that they could monitor you in this particular way,” Schwartz said. “This isn’t a license to track you and give your information out to any other agency.”

However, Martin Horn, a professor of correctional administration at the same college, doesn’t see a problem with law enforcement using GPS data to track a suspect like Duran.

“I don’t think there is any inherent constitutional reason why police could not use that information,” Horn said. “I think there is an implicit waiver of his constitutional rights when he accepts the bracelet as a condition of being released.”

Camille Cordova, a spokeswoman for Metro Court, said the Pretrial Supervision Division decided police investigating Duran could use the GPS data if they had an arrest warrant, which they did. Police didn’t end up using the data because Duran was arrested when he reported to court for pretrial services on March 4.

After he was released, police did not try to use the monitor to find him again.


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