GPS Darts: How Police Use Them in Vehicle Pursuits

April 25, 2023

By Jill K. Sanders, Esq.

Many of us vividly remember when OJ Simpson was being pursued by the LAPD prior to his arrest back in the 1990s. Yet this was an infamous “low speed” chase. When it comes to a police pursuit, the fleeing suspect may engage in high-speed, dangerous driving. This could result in harm to the driver, the police officers, and the public. As such, law enforcement looks to avoid high-speed pursuits. Instead, police may be able to use of GPS darts to track fleeing cars.


What is a GPS Dart?

A GPS vehicle pursuit dart is a small projectile attached to a car with an adhesive. After being deployed by a police officer, a wireless transmitter in the dart permits police to track the vehicle. According to StarChase, one of the leading manufacturers of this technology, the GPS dart provides real-time location tracking. This allows for cops to stop pursuing the fleeing car while still being able to track the suspect.

Why use the darts? According to law enforcement, the darts provide a safer way to locate suspects by taking the chase out of the apprehension. A 2013 report released by the National Institute of Justice (in partnership with StarChase) stated that more than 55,000 injuries occur each year because of high-speed pursuits. Moreover, more than 360 officer and civilian fatalities occur in such pursuits. With more police agencies having “no pursuit” policies, GPS darts provide for a safer alternative.


Use of GPS Darts in New York

Recently, the Old Westbury Police Department in Long Island announced they would use the darts for those evading police. In New York, a driver is required to stop for uniformed police officer when directed to do so. If a driver fails to stop and instead flees, they could face criminal charges. Charges include Reckless Driving, Unlawfully Fleeing a Police Officer, and Reckless Endangerment. The driver could also be charged with violations of the Vehicle & Traffic Law.


The Warrant Requirement and GPS Darts

If police want to track a car with a GPS device, do they need a warrant to do so? Under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, the answer is usually yes. Officers must have probable cause to believe the vehicle is involved in criminal activity.

However, in the case of a police pursuit, time is of the essence. If a cop has probable cause to believe that the vehicle is fleeing or was leaving after the commission of a crime, the use of a GPS dart is likely constitutional. Courts will likely see this as a “hot pursuit” or an exigent circumstance where there is a potential for loss of evidence. Plus, the technology lessens the chance of injury to persons and property as a result of a high-speed pursuit.




Image: CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication