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Police use GPS technology to thwart alleged robber

Readers may be all too familiar with the policy debate surrounding law enforcement’s potential cellphone tracking of suspects. The issue of whether authorities can extract location data from telecommunications carriers without a warrant has gone before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the issue continues to be contentious.

A recent story provides another example of how police officials are using GPS technology to track alleged criminal offenders. According to OxyContin drug maker Purdue Pharma, GPS-equipped decoy bottles have been deployed in 33 states across the country in an effort to thwart pharmacy robberies. 

The bottles weigh the same as others filled with pills, and are even designed to sound the same when shaken. However, when lifted from a special base, the decoy bottles start emitting a signal. Nationwide, the drug maker estimates that 11 suspects have been arrested for this type of robbery.

In one recent example, police were able to locate an alleged robber before he had even exited his vehicle. Granted, the individual did not suspect that he was being followed. Unfortunately, the surprise of seeing approaching officers may have prompted an unwise reaction: Police claim that the suspect drew his gun. They returned fire, and the man was fatally wounded.

A criminal defense attorney knows that the addition of a gun during unlawful activity often translates into escalated criminal charges. In this case, the man was suspected of armed robbery. However, there were no reported injuries from the pharmacy where the incident allegedly occurred. The absence of any victims at the crime scene might have been a mitigating factor in the man's defense. Unfortunately, the man in this story never got the opportunity to consult with a criminal defense lawyer.

Source: The New York Times, “Robbery Suspect Tracked by GPS and Killed,” Joseph Goldstein and Michael Shwirtz, May 16, 2014

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