GPS Tracking Laws

Authored by , LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

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I’d Like to Mount a GPS Device Inside My Car - Is This Legal?

Many cars come equipped with GPS, or “Global Positioning Systems” that provide drivers with maps and driving directions.  According to most state laws, an electronic GPS device can be mounted on the inside of a vehicle, as long as the device doesn’t obstruct the person’s view while driving.  The device should be mounted either:

GPS devices should be used in a way that does not distract the driver while operating their vehicle.  This could lead to traffic accidents, or a costly traffic ticket for distracted driving.  For example, the driver should program the GPS device and study their route before they begin driving, so as to minimize confusion while driving.

Can the Police Use a GPS Device to Track the Whereabouts of My Vehicle?

This depends- according to a recent Supreme Court ruling, police use of a GPS device to track a suspect’s vehicle is considered a “police search” under constitutional principles.  This means that the police must secure a search warrant before affixing a GPS device to a person’s car for the purpose of tracking their whereabouts.

Once the police secure a valid search warrant, they can then attach a small, barely-detectable GPS device on the outside of a car, such as underneath the body or underneath a bumper.  The device will disclose the location of the suspect’s vehicle.  If the police failed to secure a search warrant before placing the device, the evidence obtained from the GPS device can’t be used in court during a criminal trial.

Can I Use a GPS Device to Track Another Person’s Car?

Private use of a GPS device to track another citizen’s car is debatable.  A common example of this is where a company places a GPS device on or in a company car in order to monitor an employee’s use of a car.  Generally speaking, it’s legal to use a GPS device to monitor another person’s car if:

GPS tracking devices are illegal when:

If you are unsure at all about whether a certain use of a GPS device is illegal or not, you shouldn’t use it.  The risk of invading another person’s privacy or committing a criminal act simply isn’t worth it. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Advice on GPS Tracking Laws?

GPS devices are somewhat new, and the legality of their use may vary by state law.  If you have any legal issues involving a GPS tracking device, you may wish to hire a criminal lawyer for advice.  Your attorney will be able to explain how GPS tracking laws work.  If you feel that GPS evidence has been wrongfully used against you by the police, your lawyer can help defend your claim in a court of law.

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Last Modified: 06-12-2012 11:38 AM PDT

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