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Jury’s 61-year sentence imposed for burglar caught by GPS

A man who unsuccessfully challenged police use of GPS tracking technology to gather evidence against him has failed to avoid a 61-year prison sentence for a Campbell County grocery store burglary.

Things could get even worse for Keith Lamont Hill, formerly of Bedford. He faces sentencing on similar convictions in Lynchburg Friday.

Hill claimed police officers overstepped constitutional bounds when they secretly attached a satellite tracking device to his car in 2010. The officers were working on a series of burglaries where a late-night thief was knocking holes in the walls of rural stores and making off with hundreds of cartons of cigarettes.

The satellite tracking report showed Hill’s car had been parked near a Campbell County Food Lion around the time of a burglary. Representing himself, Hill argued the GPS evidence – and everything flowing from it – should be suppressed.

Even though a later Supreme Court opinion might have made the warrantless GPS tracking unconstitutional, the judge applied a good faith exception to allow the evidence.

The jury evidently considered Hill’s extensive criminal record in recommending the maximum punishment on five charges in May. Circuit Judge John Cook imposed the 61-year term Thursday, reports The News & Advance.

Hill’s case in Franklin County produced a circuit court opinion validating police use of GPS technology, albeit one that preceded the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Jones, finding GPS tracking to be a Fourth Amendment search.

UPDATE: A Lynchburg judge on Friday tacked an additional four years and one month onto Hill’s prison term, according to Hill’s “stand-by lawyer,” Gordon Peters. The sentence is for two attempted thefts in Lynchburg. Peters said he would handle appeals for Hill, likely focusing on the warrantless GPS tracking issue.

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