In October 2010, 20 year old college student, Yasir Afifi, was alerted by a mechanic to the presence of an unknown electronic device attached to the undercarriage of his car. On a hunch the equipment was some type of government tracking device, Yasir posted photos of the device on the popular website Reddit where contributors to the website quickly confirmed the equipment was indeed a GPS tracking device only sold to law enforcement.
Not long after posting the pictures on Reddit, numerous law enforcement agents showed up at Yasir’s residence, demanding the return of the tracking device. Yasir returned the device willingly. However, no reason was given by agents as to why Yasir was targeted. Read more about the conversation between Yasir and agents in an interview Yasir gave with wired.com.
On Wednesday, March 2, 2010, Yasir filed suit against the FBI for secretly putting a GPS tracking device on his car, saying he he has never done anything that should attract the interest of federal law enforcement officials. Read more about the lawsuit at msnbc.msn.com.
The question of whether law enforcement officials need a warrant to place a GPS tracking device on your vehicle is not well settled. Recently, in United States v. Juan Pineda Moreno, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that law enforcement does not need a warrant to place a tracking device on a vehicle. However, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided differently in United States v. Antoine Jones, where the Court stated that the automobile exception to the 4th Amendment warrant requirement requires that the “car is readily mobile and probable cause exists to believe it contains contraband,” quoting Pennsylvania v. Labron, a U.S. Supreme Court case from 1996.