Is It Legal To Put a GPS Tracking Device on Someone’s Car?
I regularly read the search words and phrases that readers use to find the GPS Tracking ROI blog. The title of this post is a very common one. It’s also the kind of question that is very easy to answer. Without any quibbling the answer is, yes, no or maybe.
Oh, you wanted a more definitive answer? Well, here it is. First of all, remember that I am an expert on GPS tracking business and technology, I am not a lawyer and do not offer legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you need a lawyer, period.
photo credit: William A. Franklin But I can give you some clues. The question as it is written is nearly impossible to answer accurately. You really need to go through a chain of other questions to get even close to an answer. Here are a few things that will get you in the ball park:
- Are you the owner of the car in question? If you are, it is almost certainly legal in all states, except (and this can be a big exception) if the person you are gathering information on is an adult and a co-owner of the car … example, your spouse. You could get in a jam regarding invasion of privacy and such, and you could find that information you gather is legally inadmissible. You really need a lawyer’s advice on that one.
- Is the person being tracked your own child? If so, placing the device is likely legal under some conditions almost anywhere. As a general rule minor children are not entitled to an expectation of privacy from their parents. If it’s someone else’s minor child, though, I wouldn’t walk away from the idea, I would run.
- Is the installation secretive or disclosed? example, if you are a car rental company and you warn people that you are tracking the car it is likely legal. If you just install the device and use it clandestinely you are likely running a grave legal risk.
- If the person driving the car is your employee, it’s almost certainly legal. Again, though, disclosure is the better part of valor. I also find, from experience, that companies who disclose GPS employee tracking properly, in advance, gain more benefit than companies who try to keep it secret.
- If you are a third-party, like a private investigator, your question is way beyond my scope of knowledge. All 50 states have their own set of laws and the specifics of each individual case may be different. Again, seek proper advice before you act, nor after you have already ‘stepped in” something.
- If you are a law enforcement agency again your state laws may vary. In many cases over the past 10 years courts have held that police can track people mainly at will as long as they are only gaining the same information that a law officer could gain by other means … example actually following the vehicle physically.
- GPS surveillance in many states is legal even without a warrant in many states, based on the above rule. An important differentiator about warrants in many states is entrance to the vehicle. If an officer can attach a device without gaining entry to the vehicle it is often legal without a judge’s approval, if entry us required so is a warrant in many cases.
- And as a windup, will the act of placing the device take place on public property or on the car owner’s own property? Even police agencies often have to get a warrant to go on private property for an “install”. Let’s suppose you are a private citizen wanting to track another adult for some reason you think is valid. Even if the act of tracking is legal in your state, the entry onto another person’s property is likely trespass and in many states that’s a serious crime in itself.
So now that you are thoroughly confused, here’s my parting thought. Think through the reason you might have that question in your mind. What are you doing wrong that would cause you to suspect you are being tracked? is it worth it?
Remember there are many ways to track a car or person without GPS installed … cell phones being a prime example, so it may be more profitable to evaluate your lifestyle rather than this often complex question about GPS Tracking.