The law is complicated, in large part, because life is complicated. Most trials are highly nuanced like many-sided diamonds offering numerous perspectives that make up a whole stone. Such is the case with the conversation around ankle monitoring as a form of keeping track of people on probation or awaiting trial.
Some will say GPS tracking devices are put in place to protect crime victims and to prevent there being more victims, all while maintaining order around the participant’s activities. Others believe ankle monitors can restrict the freedom of people awaiting trial who may ultimately be judged innocent. While many believe GPS tracking is the perfect solution for giving participants the freedom they need to continue working and parenting instead of adding to the populations of already-crowded jails.
Which perspective is more important? Who wins out? Does there need to be a choice?
The idea of surveillance devices being worn by alleged perpetrators is not new, but what is new is how those programs are becoming more tailored for the benefit of the alleged victims.
In Guilford County, North Carolina last year, for example, the local government rolled out Caitlyn’s Courage, a new program that they use to track alleged domestic abusers before trial. It was created after the death of a women by her then-boyfriend in a murder-suicide that occurred after he’d been arrested and awaited trail.
In Guilford County, North Carolina last year, for example, the local government rolled out Caitlyn’s Courage, a new program that they use to track alleged domestic abusers before trial. It was created after the death of a women by her then-boyfriend in a murder-suicide that occurred after he’d been arrested and awaited trail. .”—Catherine Johnson, director of the Guilford County Family Justice Center.
Advancements from this program include the victims playing an active role, as they can choose to be notified whenever the suspect-in-question comes within three miles of them. This geofencing option changes the standard for GPS monitors. In addition, newer devices can also trigger calls to the suspect to speak with them in order to potentially clarify the situation or discourage them from any ill-intended behavior. Caitlyn’s courage has been so popular it’s spread to many counties throughout North Carolina.
And not just North Carolina, programs like this have recently been springing up all over the country, allowing victims the possibility of feeling significantly safer.
“I’ve had survivors share with me that it feels so much stronger than some of the other measures that they were using such as filing for a restraining order. We’ve seen a real shift in the accountability measures being taken against abusers which is certainly increasing the safety in our community.” Johnson added.
Protecting Participants’ Rights
In consideration of suspects rights, there are three main aspects at play. One is that some suspects are innocent. Two is that all suspects, whether innocent or not, are still humans who deserve to be treated with certain inalienable rights, including the freedom to work and care for their families.
U.S. law is built on the principle of innocence until proven guilty and generally seems to frown upon infringements of this right. In 2015, Supreme Court Case Grady v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court found that the use of ankle monitors constitutes a “search,” which if constituted as “unreasonable” would be a violation of the Fourth Amendment right to privacy.
“The Supreme Court found the GPS monitoring program to be more than plainly designed to obtain information, stating simply that ‘since it does so by physically intruding on a subject’s body, it effects a Fourth Amendment search.’”
How “reasonable” a search is falls on the shoulder of the court, as made precedent by the Samson v. California verdict, whereby it says “The reasonableness of a search depends on the totality of the circumstances, including the nature and purpose of the search and the extent to which the search intrudes upon reasonable privacy expectations.”
And the fact is, until the trial is completed (leaving aside momentarily the instances of probation) it’s not been announced whether the participant has been found guilty, so it’s best to tread lightly with the idea of taking away rights of the individual.
Whether innocent or not, treating humans with the respect and dignity that freedom of movement brings may be considered widely beneficial, with people able to live according to their choices, inhibited only by the stipulations on their GPS locations. This is a major benefit of GPS monitors, in that they grant not only freedom from incarceration—particularly of low-risk offenders—but the freedom that affords, to be able to move about in the world, able to work and parent while on probation or awaiting trial.
All things considered, there is a lot of nuance around the two perspectives: caring for the continued safety of former victims and the freedom of citizens prior to being convicted. And the reckoning between the two deserves to be nuanced as well.
New Technology Solutions Address Both Sides
Wouldn’t the ideal solution protect victims and keep low-risk offenders out of crowded prisons while eliminating the stigma associated with ankle monitors?
The team of technologists at Talitrix have created the first independent GPS tracking device designed to fit inside a modern wristwatch. The Talitrix Band offers superior tracking with less drift, thanks to GPS components ten years ahead of many ankle monitors. More accurate tracking means fewer false alarms. And because the stylish design looks like any other fitness band, participants can work and socialize without the negative societal stigma attached to the dreaded ankle monitor.
Knowing this technology exists can help victims feel safe, confident they’re being protected by a tamper-proof geofence that will alert them (and police) when trouble is within a designated perimeter. And for participants who are following the rules, it provides an accurate record that may help them prove their innocence.
While this may not be the end of this heated conversation, it’s a big step toward protecting the rights and safety of all parties involved.