Colo. Sheriff's Office Defends Use of GPS Tracker

The Larimer County Sheriff's Office is defending the use of a GPS tracker to follow a critic of the department.


LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. -- The Larimer County Sheriff's Office is defending the use of a GPS tracker to follow a critic of the department.

The department said they started tracking Stacy Lynne because she was planning to kidnap her son and defy a court order.

Sheriff's spokesman John Schulz said deputies believed they didn’t need approval from a judge when they placed the GPS tracker on Lynne's sport utility vehicle on Dec. 21, 2011, only to activate the device.

Schulz told 7NEWS the device was never activated. If it had, the Sheriff's Office would have needed to get a warrant first.

"I don't believe that it was not turned on the entire time," said Lynne. "The fact that they were showing up places means they knew where I was. To say that it wasn't on is preposterous."

Lynne found the device on her own SUV after feeling as though she had been followed numerous times.

"My instinct was telling me that I was seeing the same vehicles and the same people in the same places on a regular basis," said Lynne.

The U.S. Supreme Court in January ruled to restrict police’s ability to use a GPS device to track suspects by requiring a court warrant. The ruling did allow for exceptions in circumstances, such as immediate threat to life.

In December, the court ordered Lynne to turn over her son to the boy’s father for winter break. Lynne refused believing the order was illegal. Deputies arrested her and placed the tracker on her car while she was in jail.

Lynne’s son was handed over to the father and she was released from jail after only a few hours.

No charges were ever brought against her.

The GPS tracker remained on her vehicle for four months, until she found it.

"I actually was horrified because you just don't expect this," said Lynne. "It was very difficult to process what an invasion of somebody's privacy that is."

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith told the Fort Collins Coloradoan, “They did place a GPS tracker on that vehicle because we didn’t know where that kid was. There was a fear that she would flee with the child,” Smith said. “We had a court order that this child needed to be safely returned.”

Schulz said the Sheriff is trying to find out why the GPS device remained on Lynne's car without being retrieved. He said deputies tried to find her car at places she was known to frequent. He also said, they purposefully did not go onto her property to retrieve the device.

"They were trying to get it off without her knowing so it's as if they knew they had done something wrong," said Denver attorney Dan Recht. "If they thought it was legal to put it on and they were simply trying to get it off, why didn't they just say to her, 'We've come to get this thing off your car?'"

7NEWS checked with Recht, who is not Lynne's attorney, about the Constitutionality of having law enforcement place a GPS device on someone's vehicle.

"The Supreme Court has said this violates everyone's privacy interest," said Recht.

Although, law allows for exemptions, including exigent circumstances regarding the fear for someone's personal safety.

"Exigent circumstances are if someone's going to shoot somebody or if somebody is going to flee the jurisdiction, but if somebody's in jail there are no longer exigent circumstances," said Recht. "It certainly has a role if you can convince a judge that there's criminal activity going on."

 

Report a typo or inaccuracyIf you have a news tip or a follow-up to this story, e-mail us.Copyright 2012 by TheDenverChannel.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, r

  • Enhance your experience.

    Thank you for your regular readership of and visits to Officer.com. To continue viewing content on this site, please take a few moments to fill out the form below and register on this website.

    Registration is required to help ensure your access to featured content, and to maintain control of access to content that may be sensitive in nature to law enforcement.