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Oregon bill would make stolen bike location info probable cause for search warrant

Posted by on March 18th, 2015 at 11:11 am

Edwards for Web

Senator Chris Edwards.

Eugene area State Senator Chris Edwards wants to make it easier to go after after bike thieves. His Senate Bill 861 would require a judge to include “electronic location information” of a stolen bicycle to be considered probable cause when issuing a search warrant.

The bill would add the following language to existing Oregon Revised Statute 133.155:

(5)(a) A judge shall consider electronic location information, indicating that a bicycle reported as stolen is located in the place to be searched as described in the warrant affidavit, as probable cause that the place to be searched contains evidence concerning the commission of a criminal offense.

(b) As used in this subsection, “electronic location information” means location infor- mation obtained from an electronic location tracking device.

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We spoke with Sen. Edwards yesterday to learn more about the impetus for this bill.

“It’s been frustrating to see how much bike theft there is here in Oregon… Until bike thieves believe there’s a chance they’ll get caught, the problem isn’t going to improve.”
— Sen. Edwards

Edwards has been a victim of bike theft twice. The first time, in 2008, the thief got away. Then just two years ago he chased a would-be thief out of his garage with a baseball bat. While those incidents make him sensitive to bike theft as an issue, Edwards told us they weren’t what motivated him to introduce the bill.

According to Edwards the bill came out of a conversation with employees of a Eugene bike shop. “They were telling me how one of their co-workers at the shop had his bike stolen. It had a tracking device on it so they called the police and told them the exact house where the bike was tracked to.” Unfortunately, Edwards continued, “The police said they couldn’t do anything because they have no probably cause. ‘We can’t just go into someone’s house or ask for a search warrant based only on your word,’ they told him.”

Edwards introduced SB 861 in part to “start a conversation between law enforcement personnel and the bike community about what common practice is in situations like this” and to find out if the existing law offers enough clarity around this issue.

With the new technology and growing use of GPS and other tracking devices, it’s unlikely that law enforcement agencies around the state are all on the same page as to how to deal with this. Everyone we hear from gets excited about the potential of “bait bike” programs and the use of GPS to track stolen bikes; but no one has formalized what to actually do if a bike gets stolen and is successfully tracked down.

Like many people who are getting involved in the fight against bike theft, Edwards has simply had enough. “It’s been frustrating to see how much bike theft there is here in Oregon. The problem is so rampant and there doesn’t seem to be a strategy to take it on,” he said.

“Until bike thieves believe there’s a chance they’ll get caught, the problem isn’t going to improve.”

Edwards was pleased to hear about our fledgling effort to create a Bike Theft Task Force with the Portland Police Bureau. He hasn’t had time to work on the bill yet, but hopes round up partners and people to testify at a hearing in the next few weeks.

The bill is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by fellow Eugene Senator — and frequent bicycle rider — Floyd Prozanski. So far no hearing is scheduled, but we are tracking this bill and will keep you updated.

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Rick
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Rick

A refreshing effort

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
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kiel johnson

Strange how often lawmakers use bills to “start conversations” with people on bikes. I hope that the good ideas become actual laws.

dan
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dan

“Then just two years ago he chased a would-be thief out of his garage with a baseball bat.”

He’s got my vote! (Or at least, he would if I lived in his district.)

Anne Hawley
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Anne Hawley

It seems strange to me that electronic tracking data isn’t already deemed probable cause! I hope this bill is more than just another “conversation starter.” Seems like it could have loads of implications for the future of law enforcement as more and more of our physical possessions log onto the internet of things.

SilkySlim
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SilkySlim

I think is more about citizen provided tracking data. If the police has a GPS on something in a sting type operation, different story. Seems like something worthy of debate though. As much as I hate bike thieves, I love erring on the side of protecting civil liberties.

paikiala
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paikiala

I was thinking the same. How does onstar or lojack get the police to look for a car reported stolen? A vehicles is a vehicle. Is it the value?

Tim
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Tim

I suspect that electronic tracking data is probable cause for a search warrant if the police and DA are interested in making a search. In the case discussed, did a judge refuse to issue a warrant or did the police refuse to ask for a warrant?

Opus the Poet
Guest

It sounds like they refused to request a warrant.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Edwards introduced SB 861 in part to “start a conversation between law enforcement personnel and the bike community about what common practice is in situations like this” and to find out if the existing law offers enough clarity around this issue.

There’s that phrase again – “start a conversation”. Has any of these lawmakers actually tried talking to their constituents first?

David Lewis
Guest

One of the reasons these devices exist in the first place is as a response to police complicity, when detectives don’t bother with small insignificant thefts like bicycles. Of course, if someone steals a candy bar from Walmart they’ll get the book thrown at them, so who do the police really work for?

If I knew where my bicycle was, and the police told me they would not help me recover it, then the police are aiding and abetting the crime. Who would be responsible for the possible consequences of someone recovering their own property without this police involvement, if someone is killed or injured in the process?

This may be controversial, but I recommend bicycle and operator registration, in lieu of actual police work.

Caesar
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Caesar

Starting a conversation – in Hawaii they call it “talking story.” Usually nothing actually gets done.

Kimo, I’ll have another Mai Tai, please….

dennis
Guest
dennis

Flip side of this bill is the possibility the law would allow tracking devices to be placed on a person’s bike/vehicle without their knowledge if they are suspected of criminal activity. I hate bike thieves as much as the next guy, but worry we are adding one more tool to the burgeoning police state.

Chris I
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Chris I

I see nothing in the language that would allow that.

SW
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SW

Did he get his bike back ? (somehow) or is that just the end of the story ?

invisiblebikes
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invisiblebikes

“The police said they couldn’t do anything because they have no probably cause. ‘We can’t just go into someone’s house or ask for a search warrant based only on your word,’ they told him.”

It’s called a “gate keeper” that call desk police officer was just waiving off the significance of it being a crime. It’s just the new P.C. way for a cop to say “we’ve got better things to do than get your little bicycle back sonny!”
They would rather sit in their $40K Dodge Charger and sleep on Barbur blvd while people speed by or mutter “I’ve got better things to do!” waiting for the “Good” calls!

Just lazy, over paid “public servants” at their best!

resopmok
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resopmok

So even if it is possible to get the police off their butts and do their jobs better and to prosecute a few more bike thieves, it’s still not a serious enough crime that the same person will be back at it a few months (or less) later. What I want to know is how we make bikes less appealing to steal in the first place – anyone got good ideas? The best I can seem to do for now is a few pounds of locks, cables, and chains.

“If you can’t tie knots, tie lots!”

lyle w.
Guest
lyle w.

There’s really only so much you can do… but taking simple steps reduces the chances of your bike getting stolen exponentially.

Not locking up for long periods of time (and especially not overnight), ulock (through the frame), having it in a visible and lighted area, keeping an eye on it occasionally. If someone really wants it, they are still gonna be able to use tools to get it, but common sense definitely makes it a lot harder.

Most bike thieves are also just looking for something that they can flip for easy cash to turn into drugs, too, so they’re not walking around looking for carbon fiber bikes or anything super fancy (and, in a lot of cases, probably prefer shabby bikes, because they know the owners might be less motivated to track them down/contact police, etc).

Joe Adamski
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Joe Adamski

I hate to sound like an Oregon-Live kind of guy, but I would be wary of ‘unintended consequences’ of a change in law like this. If this Chris Edwards guy wants to start a conversation, I would suggest other means than changing State laws around, willy-nilly.

Opus the Poet
Guest

I can’t believe this is not already covered by case law. I mean you have a tracker that is accurate anywhere from a few feet to a few inches and you can enter that data into Google Maps to see what building it is located in and possibly even which apartment in that building, but you can’t use that to issue a search warrant?

Joe Adamski
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Joe Adamski

Issuing a warrant should comprise of a little more due diligence than google maps. I can use a proxy, spoof another computer,hacks happen all the time. My caller ID says Indiana but the call originates across the world. I don’t want to be forced to search and seizure on such flimsy evidence. I don’t know how to fool GPS, but someone does.

Jesse Merrithew
Guest
Jesse Merrithew

This bill would have no effect on the probable cause standard. Zero. Probable cause is a federal constitutional standard. It cannot be changed without a constitutional amendment.

Either this senator knows this and is making a base appeal to the cycling community or he lacks a basic understanding of constitutional law. Either ought to be cause for concern, not celebration.

cpac
Guest
cpac

Exactly what I was thinking. A search is either reasonable or not under the fourth amendment. State law can’t really change that. This bill, while perhaps a “conversation starter” is nothing more, and really is at risk of wasting the judiciary committee’s time.

Tom
Guest
Tom

There is a high probability that the bike thief is in possession of illegal drugs in the same home as your stolen bike. They often stealing bikes to support their habit. Submit an anonymous tip that the house you tracked your bike back to is selling drugs and has a lab in back. If they get raided, they will likely find some and the thief will go away for a much longer time than on a theft charge. Just make sure to register your bike so the police with confiscate it as stolen property, so you can get it back later.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

GPS data is already enough to get a warrant… that’s how many iphones are recovered…

sounds like they got a lazy cop…

I’ve learned that if a government employee doesn’t give you the answer you’re looking for you can usually ask the next one and get a different answer… keep asking until you get somebody that knows what they’re talking about…

Tom
Guest
Tom

If the police just won’t respond after multiple attempts, you still have their address and with it you can find a wealth of information on them on-line. Go to there employer and show your evidence that they are stealing. Employers don’t really like thieves. They are likely on Parole. Go to there Parole officer and bring your evidence. They are unlikely to be reporting incoming from their stolen goods, so submit and anonymous tip to the IRS so they get an audit (IRS has a whole program to accept tips). Take them to small claims court. Then top it all off by outing them on social media.

If the GPS is hidden well and the bike is sold with it intact, go after the buyer just as hard for buying stolen goods.

Parker Knight
Guest

Why dont you file lawsuit against police department who didn’t help with the bicycle theft?

Parker Knight
Guest

file lawsuit against probation officer who is in charge of parolee who is bicycle thief?

Parker Knight
Guest

file lawsuit against mayor or police chief? (basically they will turn around and change the lawsuit to person vs state of oregon or person vs city name) and make it harder and get it dismissed in administrative law exhaustion of administrative device (first) argument, or use notify department being sued 30 days or 60 days notice from the date of occurrence of discrimination or 60 days not timely filed notice to file lawsuit, and oregon lawsuits are tricky like it has to declare fully exactly what is going to be sued on for. so not made like for discovery during trial. mostly for already fully developed before filing lawsuit format.