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Court convicts man of drug possession but rules GPS probe without warrant illegal

A Japanese court convicted a man Thursday of possessing stimulant drugs but ruled some of the evidence gathered by police using global positioning data without a warrant was inadmissible.
The Asahikawa District Court sentenced 46-year-old Masayuki Tanikawa, a former gangster, to six years in prison and fined him 1.5 million yen for possessing 61 grams of stimulant drugs.
According to the ruling, Tanikawa possessed the drug for sale in the parking lot of a hospital in the northern Japan city of Asahikawa, Hokkaido, on April 25, 2017. He was arrested the following month.
Presiding Judge Hidehiko Sato said the crime was "sufficiently provable" through the evidence obtained through interrogation.
Tanikawa's defense claimed during the trial that data from a GPS device that the police had attached intermittently to the defendant's car since 2013 and footage from a surveillance camera set up by the police to monitor the garage could not stand as evidence because it had been obtained illegally.
Prosecutors argued that Tanikawa was charged based on evidence that the police collected through other means and was not closely linked to the GPS data. They had sought a seven-year prison term and a fine of 1.5 million yen.
As for the surveillance camera, the prosecutors asserted its legitimacy, citing that police were monitoring a parking lot adjacent to a public road and were not invading a private area.
The district court supported the assertion of the prosecutors.
In March 2017, the Supreme Court ruled against warrantless GPS data collection in investigations, saying it violates privacy, and said even investigations making use of GPS devices with a warrant were questionable.
In Tanikawa's trial, prosecutors also said the investigators had used the GPS device before the top court's ruling and that they had thought they were able to conduct such an investigation without a warrant at that time.
Following the ruling by the Supreme Court, the National Police Agency ordered all prefectural police to refrain from using GPS devices in investigations.


© KYODO
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