7th Circuit Examines Lifetime GPS Requirement

September 18, 2020, 2:08 pm

The Seventh Circuit on Friday weighed the intrusiveness of a Wisconsin statute that institutes lifetime GPS monitoring of certain convicted sex offenders against the necessity of preventing further offenses from that particular class of criminals.

The underlying suit was first filed as a federal class action by eight registered sex offenders in March 2019. They argued that a 2017 statutory interpretation by former Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel that broadened the class of sex offenders subjected to lifetime GPS monitoring after the completion of their sentences constitutes an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment, calling the tracking “an intrusive search that provides the government detailed, real-time data about a person’s every move.”

During Friday’s roughly 30-minute arguments, plaintiffs’ counsel Adele Nicholas called the lifetime GPS monitoring “unique in its intrusiveness” in that it allows Wisconsin to track certain people via “unremovable monitoring devices, 24 hours per day, every day, until death.” This kind of tracking, which is imposed categorically based solely on previous offenses, is “an extreme intrusion into bodily integrity,” Nicholas said.

Judge Hamilton pressed A.G. Schmelzer on whether there is current empirical data to back up the notion that GPS monitoring reduces the recidivism rates of certain sex offenders, saying that high levels of recidivism is “very convenient to use” to justify GPS monitoring, but wondered whether it could still survive constitutional analysis if those recidivism rates were disproven.

When Schmelzer admitted she did not have that data, Hamilton asked “wouldn’t that be helpful to know?” “Presumably if this monitoring is serving a purpose, one would expect to see some empirical results,” Hamilton said.

FAC NOTE: We will let you know as soon as the decision comes out

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