The Legal Use of GPS Tracking Devices

A recent US Supreme Court decision has set new guidelines for the use of GPS tracking devices in the US. This decision has far reaching consequences for the law enforcement, security and private investigation agencies. Citing the 4 Amendment of the Constitution that protects people from unreasonable search and seizure by the government the court […]

The Legal Use of GPS Tracking Devices

A recent US Supreme Court decision has set new guidelines for the use of GPS tracking devices in the US. This decision has far reaching consequences for the law enforcement, security and private investigation agencies. Citing the 4 Amendment of the Constitution that protects people from unreasonable search and seizure by the government the court now requires everyone using these types of devices to either notify the individual being tracked by a GPS device or obtain a search warrant. The search warrant process is similar to that used to obtain a wiretap.

Some of our customers apparently are still unaware of the change and continue to do surveillance using GPS auto tracking devices purchase from us. This will leave them open to both criminal and civil court action if their activity is discovered. Private detective and security agencies are not immune to using tracking devices and are considered private entities subject to local, state and federal law. In addition generally they are barred from obtaining a search warrant from the local magistrate or judge.

Recently one of our customers was convicted and incarcerated for the illegal use of a tracking device that she purchased from us. Fearing that her husband was having an affair she attached a GPS logging device to her husband’s company owned vehicle. During routine maintenance the device was discovered and reported to the company which in turn notified law enforcement. During the investigation it was determined that we had sold this device to the woman in question. Prosecution followed shortly thereafter.

Right now more than half of the states have some form of legislation that regulates the use of vehicle tracking devices. Many people feel that using a GPS logging device does not fall under these statutes because the surveillance is not done in real time. From our understanding this is not correct. Unless you have title to the vehicle in your name you are most likely breaking the law by attaching a device to the vehicle.

In almost every case if you are a business that uses GPS fleet tracking you may use these devices if you own or lease the vehicles that are being tracked. Companies are under no obligation to inform their respective employees the devices are being used to track the equipment or vehicles they are using as part of their employment. Equipment rental companies routinely attach tracking devices to their equipment to facilitate equipment recovery. In many cases insurance companies require the use of tracking equipment prior to providing loss coverage.

When you purchase a GPS tracking device it is your responsibility to know and obey the laws governing its use. If you have questions and concerns you should ask prior to making your purchase. Unlike what you see on TV and the internet you cannot use these devices beyond the law. Many people realize that the chances of being caught doing illegal surveillance are slim. Never the less it can happen. You must respect the rights of your fellow citizens. Failure to do so can have severe consequences.

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