With the increasing popularity of GPS tracking systems, many consumers interested in this new form of monitoring technology may have asked themselves about the legality or potential laws surrounding vehicle tracking. Whether the user is a law enforcement agency, parent of a teenager, or spouse suspecting infidelity, understanding the varying laws of using a GPS tracking system is important.
Whether it’s a real-time GPS tracking system or passive GPS solution, law enforcement agencies have been successfully capturing and monitoring burglars, drug traffickers, arsonists, and other criminals with these monitoring devices. Vehicle tracking devices are perfect tools for law enforcement agencies because most of them have 3 unique features:
1. Magnetic Mounts
2. Compact In Size
3. Water-Resistant or Waterproof Casing
These features are important because they allow law enforcement agencies to quickly place the GPS tracker upon the vehicle without having to enter the vehicle. The tracking system can be magnetically mounted underneath the vehicle to the frame and acquire GPS signals that are reflected off the ground. The vehicle can then be monitored from a remote location via the Internet (Real-time GPS tracking systems), or authorities can remove the GPS tracker and view everywhere the vehicle has been (Passive GPS tracking systems).
When it comes to guidelines for the use of GPS tracking systems by law enforcement the laws vary from state-to-state. For example, in Wisconsin the state’s Supreme Court said that Wisconsin police departments do not need to acquire a warrant before placing a GPS tracker onto a suspect’s vehicle. Since many vehicle tracking devices are being placed outside of the vehicle and the roadways are considered public property, the state Supreme Court felt there was no reason for the police to obtain a warrant. However, the New York State Supreme Court had a differing opinion on the hot issue topic. In a 4-3 vote the New York State Supreme Court stated that law enforcement agencies must obtain a warrant if they were to use GPS monitoring system technology on a suspect’s vehicle.
Although most states have not passed legislation on whether a law enforcement agency must acquire a warrant to use a GPS tracking system on a suspect’s vehicle, many police departments have their own internal policy on the issue. GPS tracking laws are still very undefined at this point in time, however, now that the technology has became so precise, cheap, and accessible it will continue to be used as a tool for law enforcement agencies. Since GPS tracking devices can do the monitoring work of 3 or 4 people, police departments will rely on the technology in a budget-cut era and use the data in the battle on crime.
Basically every state allows GPS tracking systems to be used legally by parents who want to monitor their teenage driver’s vehicles or employers who want to monitor employees in company vehicles, consumers may want to consult an attorney before implementing a GPS vehicle tracker to catch a cheating spouse. The advantage of using a GPS device is that it can reveal many truths such as where a spouse was going, how long they were there, etc. Vehicle tracking devices have busted many cheating spouses and provided the answers that many spouses so desperately desire. However, the data may not be admissible in court if the data was gathered in an unlawful manner.
There are many forms of technology such as digital cameras or video recorders that can be purchased and used in an unlawful manner and the same thing applies to GPS tracker systems. Since many states have laws about violation of rights and property, a spouse who wants to use the data from a GPS monitoring device in a divorce court should be advised to consult local law professionals so the data can be acquired in a useful and lawful manner.
GPS tracking laws are still very much in a gray area, and since the laws are either being established or changed the best thing for a consumer to do if they think their vehicle tracking application might violate the law is to consult a lawyer