GPS Tracking Laws

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Is It Legal to Mount a GPS Device Inside My Car?

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 in 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 My Vehicle?

It depends. The law concerning the government tracking has only recently started to be analyzed. Unfortunately, this puts the law far behind the development of the technology is evaluating. 

According to the Supreme Court in United States v. Jones, police use of a GPS device to track a suspect’s vehicle is considered a “search” under the Fourth Amendment. 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 them.

Once the police secure a valid search warrant, they can attach a GPS device on the outside of a car, typically underneath the body or underneath a bumper. The device will disclose the location of the suspect’s vehicle. However, this ruling was split into three separate opinions, making the application of the rule difficult.

As a result, courts throughout the states have been applying the law differently, often reaching completely contrasting conclusions over the same issues. Below are the main areas of confusion.

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 also debatable. Generally speaking, it’s legal to use a GPS device to monitor another person’s car if:

However, it’s probably illegal to use the GPS tracking devices when:

Again, the above is a general outline. Depending on the laws of the state and trespassing issues aside, the act of invading another person’s privacy to install the GPS device may amount to a criminal act itself. 

Should I Speak to a Lawyer for Advice on GPS Tracking Laws?

GPS devices are newer technology, and the legality of their use may vary by state law. Additionally, even federal courts are split on how to handle the technology. If you have any legal issues involving a GPS tracking device, you should consult with a criminal lawyer for advice. This is particularly true if you feel that the police have wrongfully used GPS evidence against you. Your attorney will be able to explain the GPS laws of your state and what sort of rights and remedies you have.

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Last Modified: 06-19-2014 11:47 AM PDT

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