August 19th, 2017
Who knew? Police can track you via GPS after a DUI. A Washington State DUI conviction carries with it a requirement of at least one year of ignition interlock on any car that you drive. Even before a conviction, a license suspension means you can’t drive unless you have an ignition interlock in your car. Some courts require ignition interlock as a “condition of release” which means it is required from the first appearance in court until the end of the court case, no matter what the DOL says.
Most folks know that an ignition interlock device (commonly referred to as the “blow and go”) requires you to blow into the device before your car will start and periodically when the car is being driven. If alcohol is detected, the car won’t start. If you are driving, the horn will honk and the headlights will start blinking if alcohol is detected. Over the years, the legislature has quietly added two features to the interlock: (1) The interlock must have a camera that records a photo of the person blowing and (2) the interlock must have a GPS that records the exact location of the car when the device is used. By law, the photos and GPS coordinates must be stored by the interlock provider. The photos and coordinates are not protected by law from disclosure. In fact, the interlock provider cannot refuse to hand the data over to the Washington State Patrol upon request - no search warrant required. The photos and GPS logs are “to be used for circumvention and tampering investigations.” Most people likely won’t care about this type of government-mandated tracking unless they are required to have an interlock to drive. Then, it hits home.
This provision of Washington State’s interlock laws was passed without any press coverage of the photo or GPS requirement. Supporters would say it is only a slight loss of privacy to the driver, required by the state as a condition of being able to drive after a DUI. On the other hand, it’s a bit creepy that the state is now, by law, tracking the every day movements of thousands of citizens under the authority of Washington state DUI laws. The Washington Court of Appeals has considered whether GPS surveillance is a violation of the right to privacy. In 2003, before the GPS/interlock law, the court said: "We conclude that citizens of this State have a right to be free from the type of governmental intrusion that occurs when a GPS device is attached to a citizen’s vehicle, regardless of reduced privacy expectations due to advances in technology. We hold that under article I, section 7 a warrant is required for installation of these devices." To date, the legality of warrantless GPS tracking via interlock has not been addressed by our courts.
Resources: RCW - Standards for Interlocks
(Photo courtesy SmartStart)