All across the United States and world, legislators are having to make concrete decisions regarding the use of GPS tracking systems as the monitoring technology grows in popularity among both consumers and businesses. However, what has been the most surprising part of the process has been the divide among lawmakers from different regions. For example, Wisconsin policy makers passed legislation stating that police could utilize GPS trackers without a warrant to gather information on potential criminals. The Wisconsin decision was ground-breaking, as it was one of the first states to actually bring the application of vehicle monitoring from the shadows and into the public eye. However, shortly after the Wisconsin decision the state of New York decided that it was not okay for police to use GPS monitoring technology for surveillance purposes without first obtaining a warrant. The contrast in rulings really showcased just how mixed people felt about the use of GPS monitoring and potential violation of people's privacy, but both of these cases involved the use of GPS among police enforcement agencies, not the public. One state that has recently made a statement on the use of GPS monitoring devices by private citizens was the state of Virginia, and what the state said is that the people of Virginia can use GPS tracking devices.
Virginia washed away all ambiguity when it comes to the use of car tracking technology, stating that there is currently no laws that exist that prohibit the use of GPS tracking by private citizens. The statement came after a lawsuit was filed by a man who discovered that his estranged wife had been using a real-time tracking unit to catalogue and document his day-to-day driving activity. The man, whose mechanic found the GPS tracking system when performing some routine maintenance, learned that the estranged wife was using a car tracker in an effort to scope up some dirt about what the man was doing.
The car tracking unit was placed onto the man's vehicle by a private investigator who was hired by the estranged wife.
After hearing about the case, Virginia House Delegate Joe T May proposed legislation (HB2032) that would make the use of electronic devices such as GPS trackers a misdemeanor offense when used without the knowledge or consent of the vehicle operator. Of course, the proposed legislation also states that police agencies, people owning the title to a vehicle, probation/parole officers and Dept. of Corrections workers would still be able to use tracking equipment to perform law enforcement tracking applications. The proposed law would also allow parents to use vehicle monitoring devices and teen tracking solutions on their children who are under the age of 18 and operating a motor vehicle.
The bill was making its way through the General Assembly when last reported.
It is important to note that even though some states have passed legislation outlining the application of vehicle monitoring, and some states have simply brought it to the public's attention that no laws exist that make GPS monitoring illegal, anyone who uses a GPS car tracker should make the appropriate and responsible steps about acquiring their own local laws before investing in a GPS tracking system. People interested in using vehicle monitoring technology should consult legal counsel in their area of residence, or contact local law enforcement about the existence of any laws pertaining to GPS tracking. This article is in no way shape or form a representation of the laws that could pertain to the laws in your area.