Court allows agents to secretly put GPS trackers on cars

From CNN:

Law enforcement officers may secretly place a GPS device on a person’s car without seeking a warrant from a judge, according to a recent federal appeals court ruling in California.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Oregon in 2007 surreptitiously attached a GPS to the silver Jeep owned by Juan Pineda-Moreno, whom they suspected of growing marijuana, according to court papers.

When Pineda-Moreno was arrested and charged, one piece of evidence was the GPS data, including the longitude and latitude of where the Jeep was driven, and how long it stayed. Prosecutors asserted the Jeep had been driven several times to remote rural locations where agents discovered marijuana being grown, court documents show.

Pineda-Moreno eventually pleaded guilty to conspiracy to grow marijuana, and is serving a 51-month sentence, according to his lawyer.

But he appealed on the grounds that sneaking onto a person’s driveway and secretly tracking their car violates a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy.

“They went onto the property several times in the middle of the night without his knowledge and without his permission,” said his lawyer, Harrison Latto.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal twice — in January of this year by a three-judge panel, and then again by the full court earlier this month. The judges who affirmed Pineda-Moreno’s conviction did so without comment.

Latto says the Ninth Circuit decision means law enforcement can place trackers on cars, without seeking a court’s permission, in the nine western states the California-based circuit covers.

Top 7 insane homeowners association rules

From TheWeek.com:

The astonishingly restrictive ways of homeowners associations (HOAs) came under scrutiny this month when a Sussex Square, Virginia, HOA demanded that a 90-year-old World War II vet remove an unapproved flag pole from his front yard. After receiving support from members of Congress, and even the Obama administration, Medal of Honor recipient Van T. Barfoot, who once singlehandedly took on three Nazi tanks, triumphed in his quest to fly Old Glory. Other homeowners haven’t been as lucky in their battles against their own HOAs’ “fascist” rules. Here are seven of the most controversial commandments:

(via Boing Boing)

How Panhandlers Use Free Credit Cards

From TheStar.com:

What would happen if, instead of spare change, you handed a person in need the means to shop for whatever they needed? What would they buy? Can you spare your credit card, sir?

In New York City, an advertising executive recently handed over her American Express Platinum Card to a homeless Manhattan man after he had asked her for change. The man, who had been without home after losing a job, used the card to buy $25 worth of deodorant, water and cigarettes. And then he returned the card.

Concerns over the wisdom of sharing of credits cards and credit card fraud aside, the unlikely encounter became a talking point — a feel-good story about, as the New York Post put it in a headline: “A bum you can trust — honest!”

Is that such a surprise?

Over the past two weeks, I wandered Toronto’s downtown core with five prepaid Visa and MasterCard gift cards, in $50 and $75 denominations, waiting for people to ask for money.

When they did, I asked them what they needed. A meal at a restaurant, groceries, a new pair of pants, they said. I handed out the cards and asked that they give them back when they’d finished shopping. I either waited at a coffee shop while they shopped or — in the case of those who could not buy what they needed nearby or were reticent about leaving their panhandling post — I said I’d return on another day to pick up the card. That’s when I would reveal that I was a journalist.

Some were unbelieving at first. All were grateful. Some declined the offer. Some who accepted didn’t come back, but those that did had stories to tell.

(via J-Walk)