COURT RULING: GPS Ankle Monitor Data is Public Record

In January of this year, District Attorney Raûl Torrez sued the 2nd Judicial District Court’s public records custodian to access GPS ankle monitoring data.

On Monday, District Judge James A. Noel agreed and ordered GPS records Torrez had requested a year ago be made available.

In the lawsuit, the DA’s Office argued that the GPS data is “matter of public safety for law enforcement and the public to know whether criminal defendants permitted to stay out of jail pending trial on certain conditions of release have committed new crimes.”

The office also argued that there is no reasonable expectation of location privacy for defendants released with a GPS ankle monitor – defendants agree that the court’s and law enforcement’s ability to monitor their location is part of the conditions of their pretrial release.

The suit followed two high-profile news stories broke about defendants, charged for other crimes and released on their own recognizance pending their trial, committing new crimes while on ankle monitors.

In the spring of 2021, Devin Munford was released with an ankle monitor after being charged with shooting a firearm from a motor vehicle. Just days later, he was arrested again, accused of shooting a man to death at his home. Meanwhile, last fall, Jesse Mascareno-Haidle was charged with two residential burglaries, auto theft, and larceny, and is a suspect in as many as 80 home burglaries. Released with an ankle monitor, he was soon after arrested again for allegedly breaking into parked cars at Rio Grande High School.

These crimes, the DA implicitly argued, might have been prevented if law enforcement had had access to the defendants’ GPS whereabouts. In particular, Munford had violated the conditions of his release when he entered an exclusion zone – geographic boundaries a defendant agrees to respect – but law enforcement was not notified.

Torrez praised the decision yesterday, adding that his office, in partnership with law enforcement, aims to cross-reference this GPS information with data related to other criminal activity across the city.

And yet: “I can tell you that when I first came into office,” Torrez told the Journal yesterday, “if someone told me that I would actually be forced to file a lawsuit against the district court to get access to GPS information on defendants that the court itself has deemed dangerous and placed on GPS monitoring, I would have said, ‘You’re crazy.”’

It is mind-boggling that Torrez’ office had to formally make a legal case to access the hard data necessary to do its job – taking away from time that should be spent building cases to keep our community safe and hold offenders accountable.

But make no mistake, we’re glad to see a decision that will equip our prosecutors and law enforcement with the data and evidence they need to make sure defendants on pretrial release toe the line. In a state where pretrial release is granted too often, the minimum we should be able to expect as citizens is that people released under supervision are actually supervised.

No appeal of the decision has yet been filed.

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