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No Fourth Amendment violation by police for placing a warrantless tracking devise prior to the Supreme Court’s prohibition

In U.S. v. Ransfer, the defendants were convicted of a Hobbs Act violations, and the use and carrying of firearms during the commission of a violent crime. The first issue the defendants raised in challenging these federal criminal convictions was the admission of evidence resulting from the installation and use of a GPS tracking device without a warrant. It used to determine the location of a Ford expedition that was used in the commission of several robberies. The defendants relied on U.S. vs. Jones, a 2012 Supreme Court case stating that installing a GPS tracking devise on a vehicle and tracking the vehicle’s movement was a search under the fourth amendment and required a warrant. The police installed the tracking device on May 27, 2011, before the Jones decision was issued in 2012. Prior to the Jones decision the prevailing law in the 11th circuit said that law enforcement officers did not violate the Fourth amendment by placing a tracking device on vehicle parked in a public place and to track the vehicles moment on public roads if the officers that reasonable suspicion to initiate surveillance of the vehicle. The Eleventh Circuit found that the officers were in good faith and it was reasonable for the officers to rely on long standing precedent in attaching the GPS without a warrant by installing electronic tracking device of vehicle without a warrant. Because there was clear precedent in the 11th circuit stating that the police did not violate the fourth amendment, the search was not subject to the exclusionary rule.

In their second issue, the defendants challenged the lead an officer’s testimony on grounds that it was hearsay. The officer testified about the identities and their suspicious activities from information learned from out of court sources. The court concluded that his testimony was based on his investigation review of a complex investigation in which he supervised a months-long endeavor to identify and locate the perpetrators of this series of armed robberies. His statements were not offered to rehabilitate any witness. Instead he was merely providing a summary of the investigation and his background information shed light on why the officer conducted the investigation in the manner that he get even if it was an error it was not reversible because the evidence about which he testified was otherwise admissible on the record.

The defendants challenge the convictions on the basis of sufficiency of the evidence. All of the convictions were affirmed except for the robbery of a specific CVS for one defendants, which was reversed. The court found the evidence was insufficient to prove one of the defendants was involved in this particular robbery because the evidence supporting his conviction in the other robberies was absent here. There was no evidence he was ever in the CVS or that he did anything prior to or during the robbery to further the crime.

The court decided these miscellaneous issues:

It found there was sufficient evidence of interstate commerce to convict under the Hobbs Act.

The exclusion of a medical expert witness showing that a defendant could not have caused injury to one of the law enforcement officers was not an abuse of discretion. The defendant wanted to show the defendant was beaten upon his arrest and to question the reliability of the post arrest statement.

The court upheld a challenge to a 20 minute closing for each attorney. The defense failed to show any prejudice as a result of this time limitation.

The challenge to the Metro PCS records custodian regarding cell tower activity was rejected on the grounds that the witness testimony was not expert testimony.

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