September 10, 2014 South Carolina Supreme Court published opinion

State v Adams

Police attached a GPS device on Adams car. He was pulled over for traffic violations at the request of the officers who attached the device and drugs were found on Adam’s person. He moved to suppress which was denied. The Court of Appeals held the attachment of the device was unconstitutional, but, the observed traffic violations were an intervening cause and affirmed. The Court reversed and remanded. It held that because the traffic stop was initiated because of the GPS device, the causal link between the unconstitutional attachment and traffic stop was not broken. It noted that holding otherwise would effectively end 4th Amendment protections in these circumstances. The Court also held there was no good faith exception available because no United States Supreme Court case, 4th Circuit case or South Carolina case authorized attachment of GPS devices without a warrant and in fact South Carolina Code 17-30-140 requires prior authorization before a device is attached. The Court rejected the State’s ignorance defense noting ignorance of a law on the books for six years is no excuse for failing to follow it and that principle applies to both criminal suspects and those who investigate them.

 

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