Does a GPS tracking device constitute an illegal search?

Earlier this week we discussed the case of a St. Louis City Treasurer’s Office employee who is accused of timesheet fraud. Federal investigators followed the man around after hearing reports that he was collecting a salary despite not doing any work. After the investigation the man was charged with wire fraud and federal program theft. The main question that remains is whether the evidence against the employee was obtained illegally.

The government is not allowed to use evidence against a person that is the result of an unreasonable search and seizure. It is unclear whether the FBI’s decision to clip a GPS tracking device to the man’s car constituted an illegal search and the issue is currently before the Supreme Court.

FBI agents tracked the man’s car movements and compared the movements with his timesheets. Although the admissibility of the GPS tracking information is unclear, challenging the validity of a search is one of first things that an experienced criminal defense attorney will consider when devising a comprehensive defense strategy against federal charges. The inadmissibility of key evidence may destroy the government’s case and result in the dismissal of charges against a defendant.

It is unclear what the government’s case against the man will consist of if the GPS evidence is deemed inadmissible. There is also a separate issue of whether the man’s job was necessary in the first place. It appears that the treasurer’s office outsourced many of the functions of the man’s job. The Post Dispatch also reported that the man has not been suspended despite the federal charges against him.

The man is also accused of embezzling $250,000 in public funds from the Paideia Academy charter school which he used to run.

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