Saturday, December 18, 2010

GPS Evidence Legislation-Good for Business Generation & Job Creation?

In these difficult economic times, States are struggling for any economic advantage to differentiate themselves from their other State competition. They offer tax incentives, deregulate and streamline, and do whatever they can to make themselves as business-friendly as possible. However, most, if not all states have fallen behind in onItalice way they can become more business friendly, reasonably regulating the use of GPS tracking devices and the GPS evidence created by those devices.

If most businesses hate regulation, how can reasonably regulating GPS evidence collection and handling be pro-business? Simple. By regulating GPS evidence collection and introduction, state legislatures will add predictability to the whole concept of GPS business use. Right now, GPS evidence is largely unregulated, with no wide reaching legislation and very few court decisions. Any business using GPS evidence could run afoul of some local court decision, and have to wait years to find out whether it's business use of GPS is allowed with approval, allowed with disapproval, barred without damages, or sanctioned with a great deal of damages, by an appeals court. A broad legislative scheme reasonably regulating GPS use gives the business the predictability it needs to move forward.

Why would a State where individuals and businesses can predictably use GPS evidence cause a business to move to that state? Consider the business advantages:
  1. The ability to GPS track business products and services, employees and transportation devices, and know if and when that GPS evidence will be allowed into a court of law.
  2. The ability to know that substantial capitol outlay for GPS tracking devices, or contracts for GPS services, won't be rendered valueless by a judicial fiat.
  3. The knowledge that law enforcement entities can better protect business property, employees and their families because the State has reasonable GPS regulation that won't result in appeals courts throwing out convictions resulting from GPS evidence.
  4. The ability to regulate costs, like worker compensation and casualty insurance, by allowing reasonable use of GPS based investigation-investigation with better, clearer results that disclose fraud and work to accurately compensate the truly injured victims.
  5. The knowledge that, in a state where GPS evidence can be used to investigate crime, tax rates will be lower because of lower costs for policing.
Furthermore, there are very few legislative initiatives any state can adopt to attract business that are cost free. Reasonable GPS regulation is cost free. Violaters of a GPS evidence laws will, by the very nature of the evidence, be self-prosecuting. Those who attempt to enter GPS evidence the law bars will be opposed by their opponents, and will not require state involvement.

So, since I'm from Wisconsin, I have to ask the question-will my state be the first state to declare itself GPS friendly? And business friendly? Will others follow? GPS, by its very nature, travels. What state will want to be an island opposed to reasonable GPS regulation?

Of course, because GPS evidence creation may be considered "interstate commerce" government may simply pass reasonable GPS evidence regulation that preempt all state regulation. Consider, if you will, that all GPS evidence starts by receiving signals generated almost entirely outside the boundaries of the State in question, by satellites high above the earth, often outside of the borders of the United States. This may take some time, however, and those States who manage to regulate GPS evidence first will gain a free business-friendly advantage-one that might evaporate overnight if GPS regulation becomes nationwide. Thus, States should work quickly to get the best reasonable GPS regulations in place they can, while they can still get "something for nothing." Businesses that relocate, in part, because of good GPS policy won't move if GPS regulation goes nationwide, because the playing field will be leveled at that point. States will keep the jobs and business tax revenue they got for nothing.

Who will be first? Let's get GPS friendly now!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

GPS evidence – The Reliability of GPS evidence vs. Other Forms of Forensic Evidence

Since I started this blog, I have maintained that the quality of GPS evidence is as good as or better than most forms of forensic evidence available for the prosecution of crimes. Now, it appears that the other kinds of forensic evidence that juries have accepted for years have proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt are themselves und

er question.

In Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward (2009), the National Academy of Sciences was asked review all forms of forensic evidence to determine their reliability in the courtroom. The 212 page report resulted from that review is called into question the following evidence procedures and types:

  • Fingerprints – according to popular science “in one recent experiment, veteran examiners looking twice at the same print came to different conclusions each time.”(Popular Science, Reasonable doubt, August 2009, page 47)

  • Ballistics – “... the Detroit Police Department crime lab was shut down after an audit by the state of Michigan found a 10% error rate in ballistic identification.” (Id. , page 49)

  • trace evidence – “”Current methodology is only sufficient to conclude that fibers could have come from the same type of garment or carpet”(Id. Page 50, emphasis added)

  • biological evidence--(Excluding DNA evidence) – testing biological evidence that does not have DNA available and it In trying to match it is difficult and error as possible. For instance “one FBI study found a 12.5% error rate” for attempts to match hairs is using subjective analysis.

Despite the mandate to review the reliability of all types of scientific forensic evidence, And the ability of the National Academy of Sciences to comment on all types of forensic evidence, The words “GPS” only appear three times in the entire 212 pages, only in passing. Nowhere does report criticized the reliability of GPS or the quality of the evidence it produces. Conclusion: GPS evidence is forensically reliable and high quality.

What is the import of this report? If the types of forensic evidence police have been relying on for years are now in question, what kind of evidence can they rely on to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent? Answer: GPS evidence.

If GPS evidence can fill the void left by more traditional forms of forensic evidence, legislators, prosecutors and yes, public defenders need to support its use in the interest of justice. As I stated in a recent post, The Economics of GPS evidence, GPS evidence is not only highly convincing evidence, it is highly economical evidence. With tightening budgets and less resources, law enforcement must use every means possible to economically prosecute crimes. GPS evidence can be important addition to traditional forms of evidence. And now, where those forms of evidence might be in doubt, GPS evidence they actually replace those forms of evidence, or confirm their accuracy.

There's no question that the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a high standard. Given recent studies that raise doubts about traditional forms of evidence, it is clear that many forms of evidence may have to be used to convict a single crime. GPS evidence might confirm fingerprint evidence, and fingerprint evidence might back up DNA evidence. GPS evidence is particularly useful in that, as I have said, GPS evidence doesn’t answer any question or point any fingers, it simply raises the kind of questions the guilty can’t answer but the innocent can easily answer.

Monday, January 18, 2010

GPS Evidence-Deterrence

One of the most important uses of GPS Evidence can never really be measured, will never see the open courtroom, will never require the attachment of a GPS unit to a car. Actually, this use of GPS evidence never even requires collection of GPS evidence.


While no criminal or potential criminal feared detection by GPS evidence twenty, or even ten, years ago, it is likely they do now. Criminals dealt with those who they "trusted", bought and sold drugs, contraband, information or favors from those who would also suffer if knowledge of their shared criminal enterprise were to become public or come to the attention of law enforcement.

Now, however, the story has changed and the tide is hopefully turning. Every time a story is in the newspaper about GPS tracking putting another suspect behind bars, every criminal has to ask him or herself, will that be me soon? In the mean time, the criminal that goes about buying and selling drugs and stolen items have to wonder, is this when the police will burst in? With GPS evidence, it doesn't matter if the criminal "trusts" his fences, his drug customers, his suppliers-because those people wouldn't know if they were being tracked by GPS evidence.

Other forms of investigation leave tracks, or clues. Direct visits by officers. Boxy, government type vehicles following at a distance. Neighbors and employers questioned by men in suits. Knocks on the door. The possibility of barricading one's self in the home for a last stand against the law.

But an investigation and arrest done with GPS evidence is different. No warning, no following vehicles, probably not much questioning to neighbors, no direct initial "visits" from law enforcement. No clues that one is being investigated. With GPS evidence, police can invisibly track patterns of contact and activity. No inside information is necessary. No fellow criminal must turn into an informant.

And police following a "realtime" GPS signal don't even have to enter a house or apartment after a subject. They just have to follow the criminal's vehicle, out of sight, until the suspect parks, then move in in force. No more stand-offs. No more sick criminal fantasy about going down shooting.

With GPS evidence, one last bastion of criminal hope is also vanquished: If they catch me, I'll rat out someone else and make a good deal. With GPS evidence, police probably know more about the target suspects relationships, contacts, suppliers, buyers and even victims than his fellow criminals do. Likely, they will already have arrested, in one stunning sweep, all those who the target criminal suspect could hope to turn in to make a deal. GPS evidence, where gathered and used successfully, allows prosecutors to put away all the members of a conspiracy, rather than having to settle for jailing the least talkative.

There is one way for a current criminal to avoid all these consequences: Go straight, before the law starts tracking you.

Now, some might say that a post like this would put criminals on notice to check their vehicles for GPS trackers. But, even if they find a GPS tracker, wouldn't it be too late? How much did that tracker find out already? Could there be more than one? Perhaps he'll borrow a car. Who's to say that car isn't GPS tracked? And, even if the frighten criminal doesn't find a tracker, does that mean he's in the clear? Or, was it just removed and downloaded?

Will GPS tracking move criminals out of private vehicles? If so, their mobility will be greatly compromised, their anonymity will be greatly reduced, and their risks of apprehension increased. And, eventually, they will drive again, when they feel "safe" doing it.

Successful criminals surround themselves with people that they can trust, or at least intimidate, and convince those people that if harm should come to the successful criminal, equal or greater harm will come to those around that criminal. GPS sidesteps all that "human engineering" by disclosing geographic evidence of human relationships and relationships with events outside the control of the criminal suspect, and independent of co-conspirator testimony. GPS evidence, therefore, represents probably the most powerful deterrents to criminal activity since fingerprint evidence was first introduced.