Equipment Tracking Systems

GPS Tracking Laws By State

Security

GPS Tracking Laws

Is it illegal to use a GPS device to track someone without their permission?

The short answer? Yes and no. The longer answer? It depends on who you are, who owns the vehicle, and whether or not you have a warrant, as well as the laws of individual states.

Let’s start with an easy guideline: It’s entirely legal to place a GPS tracking device on a vehicle or asset which you own. Beyond that, it gets more complicated.

Editors Pick For BEST GPS TRACKER 2022

law enforcement GPS tracker

GET PRICING!

Using A Hidden GPS Car Tracker Is Typically Legal If:

  • You or your company own the automobile or asset that is going to be monitored
  • You are using the live GPS for child safety or teen driving (persons are under 18) 
  • You are a car dealership tracking a vehicle for repo if someone defaults on a loan

Using A Hidden GPS Car Tracker Is Typically Illegal If:

  • You enter the vehicle or place the tracker on the car when it is parked on private property 
  • You are not the owner, lessor, or lessee of the personal vehicle

From a law enforcement standpoint, warrants are required to legally place a tracking device on a vehicle, though numerous court cases have tried to fight that current standard. On the other side of law enforcement: If you find a GPS tracking device that was placed there by law enforcement, it is illegal for you to remove it.

Given the complexities and gray areas of using a hidden GPS tracker to spy on a teen driver, employee, or cheating partner, it is important to do your due diligence in order to avoid any legal ramifications. Learn the laws of your state. Consider consulting law enforcement officials or a local attorney. Information in this article is meant to highlight rulings on GPS tracking and some general information about GPS fleet tracking technologies. Given that laws on the use of live GPS are subject to change, we strongly advise you to consult an attorney in your area before using any vehicle tra

YouTube video

 

Are GPS Tracking Devices Illegal In The United States?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) was initially introduced in 1983 and has become a fundamental part of our lives ever since. GPS is integrated everywhere, from cars to smartphones. With the help of GPS, you can easily track your family, friends, or any valuable possessions. The GPS features trackers which connect a series of satellites to evaluate and track the location. A process known as trilateration is used by GPS trackers, which uses the position of three or more satellites to determine the time, longitude, and elevation to track the required location. But are GPS tracking devices legal? Let’s take a deeper dive into the topic of vehicle surveillance!

First of all, GPS vehicle trackers are 100% legal to purchase. So you can legally buy a fleet tracking device to monitor a vehicle or asset, monitoring the location or movement 24/7. But after that things can get a little tricky. For example, are you the registered owner of the vehicle? If you are not the registered owner/lessor, are you a private detective involved in personal or corporate investigations? What state is the asset tracking device going to be used in? Before diving into the details, GPS tracking is usually allowed for the vehicle and assets in your name. On the contrary, GPS systems are typically not permitted for tracking a car or assets that are not in your name. 

Related Content: 14 Best GPS Vehicle Tracking Devices

The Evolution Of Federal GPS Laws

GPS trackers have been subject to numerous court cases and lawsuits that concern the legality and morality of the GPS devices to track movements and specifically addresses. In addition to the residents, the legality of GPS tracking devices extends to the law enforcement agencies that track the activity of the citizens. The moral concern emerges when the admins use GPS to track their employees and staff members in the workplace. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled and illegalized installing of GPS devices on a person or a property of the individual if a warrant is not obtained. Although the Federal law has not highlighted the legality of a private citizen to track other private citizens and their property, several states have resolved this issue. A notable example is that in California, Virginia, and Texas, it is permissible to use a GPS tracker on a vehicle as long as the vehicle owner provides consent. In other states, such as Wisconsin, an individual can be criminally charged for using a GPS tracker on the other’s vehicle without their permission. Let’s analyze and take a look at court cases from 2005 to 2012 that have proved cardinal concerning the legality of the GPS trackers : 

    • Elgin v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co. (2005): This case revolves around an employee’s vehicle issued by the company. The car was tracked outside of office hours, leading the employee to file this case. This case encourages the car owner to follow the vehicle without a prior explanation.
    • Tubbs v. Wynn Transport (2007): The case is similar to Elgin v Coca-Cola Bottling. The employee’s vehicle was owned by the company and was tracked without the employee’s knowledge. The court ruled in favor of the company since the company owned the car.
    • United States v. Jones (2011): The case was filed after the police had used a GPS tracker on the vehicle of Jones, who was the suspected drug trafficker. Although the police were successful in gathering evidence to convict the drug trafficker, the court ruled in favor of Jones. According to the court, the actions of the police were against Jones’s Fourth Amendment rights. Although it might look like a success story for the police, in reality, this case highlights it is not permissible for the law enforcement agencies to use GPS trackers only based on suspicion.
    • Cunningham v. New York Department of Labor (2013): This case revolves around an employee whose vehicle was being tracked for misleading the work time. In this instance, the court ruled in favor of the employer. The court stated that evidence obtained from the GPS distinctly showed that the employee was misleading his work time.
    • United States v. Katzin (2013): The case in 2013 concerned the police department placing a GPS tracker on individuals suspected of different robberies. The court ruled against the police, as according to the court, the police were violating the individual’s fourth amendment rights. This case again shows that the police can not place a GPS tracker only based on suspicion and without a proper search warrant.

GPS Tracking Laws In Every State

Laws relating to GPS technologies and electronic surveillance in different states of America

Are you curious whether GPS tracking or electronic surveillance is legal or not? The truth is, GPS laws are actually a little different from one state to another so it is important to know the GPS tracking laws in your state before using any GPS device for spying. 

As we have stated, the legality of GPS systems and other tracking devices should be considered in your respective region before use. Here are the laws regarding GPS and electronic surveillance in different states of America :

Alabama

According to section 13A-11-32, if a person knowingly engages in surveillance and trespass on private property, that person will be charged with criminal surveillance. That means you cannot enter a vehicle or go on private property to equip a tracking device on a vehicle you do now own. 

Alaska

If a device is installed to observe, photograph or record events in someone else’s vehicle, residence, or workplace without their consent that individual could face a fine or misdemeanor stalking charges. However, it is very difficult to trace a GPS vehicle tracker back to its owner. 

Arizona

If an individual uses GPS devices or any other digital electronics to surveil others without authorization for 12 hours, that individual will be considered a stalker.

Arkansas

No law was found regarding GPS or electronic surveillance.

California 

An individual who is not an owner or lessee of the vehicle can not use tracking devices to determine the location. For lawful purposes, law enforcement agencies can use electronic power steering devices.

Colorado

According to the law of Bonnie, if an individual keeps another individual in surveillance through the assistance of electronic surveillance to inquire about the person’s location and shares the concerning information with the stalker will be considered stalking.

Connecticut

An individual is charged with electronic stalking if the individual is compelling another individual into a state of fear for their physical safety through the repeated use of the GPS.

Delaware

An individual is to be found guilty of violating privacy under misdemeanor of class A and class G if the individual places an electronic tracking device on a vehicle without the approval of the owner, lessee, or lessor. Exemptions are made to the law enforcement officers for tracking a legal guardian or parent for lawful means.

District of Columbia

According to the District of Columbia laws, it is illegal for an individual to use a GPS device to determine the location of other individuals without their consent.

Florida

According to the laws in Florida, an individual has to pay a fine for placing a tracking device on the vehicle of another person without their approval. There are some exceptions to the law in Florida.

Georgia

There are no laws concerning GPS or electronic surveillance in this state.

Idaho (Code § 18-6702)

The disclosure or interception of any tracking device is not allowed in this state.

Illinois

An individual cannot use GPS or any electronic tracking device to determine the location of any other individual.

Indiana

The IC 35-33-5 enables the person to utilize an electronic tracking device to evaluate the position of another object or person concerning a legal purpose.

Iowa

In Iowa, it is illegal for an individual to place a GPS device to track someone else without consent.

Kansas

There are no laws concerning GPS or electronic surveillance in this state.

Kentucky

Chapter 456, “civil orders of the protection device,” states that the person wears a GPS device system to track their location as long as it does not invade the integrity of their body.

Louisiana

Bill number 123 states that GPS is an electronic device that an individual wears to send latitude and longitude. GPS can be worn as long as it does not disregard the integrity of an individual.

Maine

According to the state laws of Maine, stalking is defined as a curse of action where a person indirectly or directly surveils or follows without approval to the extent that they feel uneasiness or fear for their safety.

Maryland

There are no laws concerning GPS or electronic surveillance in this state.

Massachusetts

If any individual uses any electronic communication or GPS device to threaten anyone, they can face imprisonment for more than five years and a penalty of $1000.

Michigan

An individual is considered a stalker if they place an electronic device without the permission of others. They can face imprisonment of one year and a fine of $1000.

Minnesota

The use of a tracking device or tracking the movement of others without their consent is considered unlawful in Minnesota.

Mississippi

In Mississippi, stalking is defined as an event where someone utilizes an electronic device to track another person to the extent that they feel uneasy.

Missouri

There are no laws concerning GPS or electronic surveillance in this state.

Montana

Stalking is considered an offense when an individual causes distress to another person by using electronic surveillance such as GPS.

Nebraska

In Nebraska, a court can issue a search warrant to a person who places a tracking device.

Nevada 

Statute 179.451 allows the use of the tracking device for determining and recording the movement of an object or person.

New Hampshire 

According to the laws of Hampshire, it is not permissible for any government entity to place a GPS or any electronic tracking device without a warrant issued by the court.

New Jersey

According to the revised statutes of New Jersey title 2A, it has been ruled that law enforcement officials can utilize electronic devices to track the location of the criminal as long as it serves a lawful purpose.

New Mexico

According to the statutes of New Mexico, an individual is considered a stalker when they use GPS or any electronic tracking device to follow an individual without any lawful authority.

New York

According to the laws of New York, it is illegal and unlawful to use electronic tracking devices to determine the location information in the absence of any authorization.

North Carolina

In North Carolina, it is illegal for a person to use electronic tracking devices without the approval of others.

North Dakota

According to the laws of North Dakota, staking is considered the tracking of a person’s location without the proper authorization to the extent that the person feels terrified.

Ohio

In Ohio, it is unlawful to install a tracking device to surveil individuals without their consent.

Oklahoma

There are no definitive laws or lower court rulings regarding the use of a tracking system for vehicle surveillance. However, entering a vehicle that is not yours or installing GPS devices on automobiles you are not the registered owner/lessor of should be done with caution. 

Oregon

In Oregon, nobody is allowed to track someone unless they have a search warrant that a lower court issues.

Pennsylvania

If an individual needs to use a GPS tracker in Pennsylvania, they need a written receipt from a law enforcement agency or an investigator.

Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, it is an offense to place or hides a GPS tracking device in another’s vehicle without their consent.

South Carolina

A person is to be charged under section 17-30-50 if that person is found to use a GPS tracker to record or monitor others.

South Dakota

According to the laws in South Dakota, a GPS device can only be used when the magistrate issues a warrant.

Tennessee

It is considered unlawful to place or hide an electronic tracking device on a motor vehicle in Tennessee without the owner’s consent.

Texas

According to Texas law, It is not permissible for an individual to place a GPS tracker on a vehicle in Texas if they are not the lesser or the owner.

Utah

In Utah, it is entirely legal for an individual to use an electronic tracking device to record or track the movement of others for a lawful purpose.

Vermont

There are no definitive laws regarding the use of tracking devices or GPS.

Virginia

According to the laws of Virginia state, a person is to be charged with a penalty if they use a GPS device without the consent of others.

Washington

If you or your business own the vehicle, you can legally track that automobile without requiring consent from the driver. This is because it is legal to safeguard your work or personal vehicle in situations of theft recovery. 

West Virginia

It is legal to track a vehicle if you are the owner or lessee of the automobile being tracker. However, it is against West Virginia law to track another person’s vehicle without their consent.

Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, an individual could be charged with a misdemeanor staking if they place a GPS tracker inside a vehicle they do not own without approval.

Wyoming

According to GPS laws in Wyoming, it is illegal for any person to use a GPS device to record the movement of others without their consent unless the person using the GPS tracker owns that vehicle. 

Conclusion

GPS tracking laws are always subject to change and that is why it is vital to speak with an attorney who specializes in vehicle surveillance to get the latest information about GPS laws before you monitor a vehicle or property. The reality is the use of electronic surveillance devices can vary whether the spy gear is being used for private investigations, police applications, business fleet management, teen tracking safety, or catching a cheating partner. GPS units are usually legal to use when you have authority over another person, own the vehicle, or have a warrant issued by a court. If you own the car or an asset being monitored, you do not need to worry about any law regarding the use of GPS or tracking devices, but we would still encourage you to speak with an attorney to get the latest penal code information related to installing or using GPS vehicle trackers.