GPS devices are a valuable asset for private investigators. They often use GPS trackers to collect solid evidence for their clients. But how legal is it to use a GPS tracker or the evidence collected through it? Apart from legality, the use of GPS trackers is also considered unethical and an invasion of privacy. While there are staunch believers to both sides of the argument, there are no defined laws or regulations about the use of GPS trackers.
In the article, you will find out whether private investigators can use GPS trackers and the allegations against them to do so?
GPS Trackers and Private Investigators
People often hire private investigators to conduct lawful investigations. For instance, a spouse may hire a private investigator to find if their spouse is cheating on them. Even some attorneys may hire them to collect evidence for criminal cases.
A private investigator can do background checks, surveillance, and investigations to collect evidence.
A private investigator can perform background checks of their target by looking into their details such as criminal records, financial background, education history, etc.
A private investigator may conduct surveillance in different ways:
- Physically by following the target.
- Technically by using GPS trackers, microphones, or recorders.
- Digitally by following targets on social media. Or by checking the web history or digital trash.
Lastly, a private investigator will look into the evidence and analyze whether it is sufficient. And then they will present it in front of the client.
Benefits of GPS Surveillance For Private Investigators
Without GPS and other technologies, it is a tiresome and arduous task. How?
Suppose the investigator wants to put surveillance on a person. He will have to follow him by himself wherever that person will go. They have to stay with the person for the whole day without rest or a meal.
Nowadays, a private investigator can attach a GPS tracker to the target’s vehicle or belongings and monitor their activities from their office. They can use hidden GPS Trackers to track discreetly.
GPS tracker does not only provide a convenient mode of surveillance but also is safer. How?
Nowadays, arms have become common in households. And if someone finds that someone is following them, they might pull a weapon on them. Thus, GPS trackers give them the safety needed and obtain the evidence. [Benefits Of Using GPS Tracking Devices For Your Family]
Moreover, GPS trackers are more economical for private investigators to keep tabs on someone. For example, for surveillance, an investigator has to follow someone himself.
Meanwhile, they have to incur travel, food, and other related expenses. While with GPS, they only have to invest once and then monitor someone easily. [How Much Does a GPS Tracker Cost?]
Furthermore, private investigators can multitask while keeping tabs on someone. How? With the help of GPS trackers, they can conduct surveillance or other work simultaneously. All they need to have is a phone or a desktop to see where the person is going.
Laws Related To The Use of GPS Trackers
To make it clear whether installing a GPS tracker without someone’s consent is legal or not, we need to know about the related laws.
There is no specific rule of law on whether or not affecting a GPS tracking device is in legal violation of someone’s privacy. Despite this, there have been different cases and lawsuits for the use of GPS trackers.
In 2012, the Supreme court ruled that no government or law enforcement agencies place a GPS tracker on someone’s vehicle without a warrant.
For individuals, the law varies from one state to another. In California, Texas, Virginia, and Minnesota, a private investigator can install a GPS tracker on a vehicle. While in Wisconsin, it is illegal to track someone.
And therefore, we can say that laws governing the use of GPS trackers are not definitive. Though, the fourth amendment and other related laws protect the privacy of individuals.
The fourth amendment of the US Constitution states:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Are Private Investigators Allowed To Use GPS Trackers?
As we can see from the above, there are no clear laws about GPS trackers. But we can say that it is legal for a licensed private investigator to use a GPS tracker on your vehicle if they have no wrong intention.
As the above statement is confusing, let us understand this with the help of different scenarios.
Situations When It Is Legal and Illegal For A Private Investigator To Employ GPS Tracker
Employee and Employer
Suppose an employer finds out that their employees use commercial vehicles for their private interest. To cut down unnecessary operational costs, they can put a GPS tracker on the company’s car.
On the other hand, an employer can also hire a private investigator to investigate their employee for defrauding them, for example, sharing a company’s plan with a competitive firm.
But it is illegal for an employer or private detective to use a GPS tracker to find out where the employee is going after work or on leave. It will qualify as stalking, which is a punishable act.
Husband and Wife
A private investigator can use a spouse GPS tracker on a client’s request who is suspicious of their spouse for infidelity.
But it is illegal for the detective to use a GPS tracker if the couple is separated.
Suppose a man comes to you with a request to track his fiancee. He believes that his fiancee is cheating on him with someone else. In this case, as the client is about to marry that person, a private investigator can put tabs on the target.
Suppose a client is doubtful that another parent is irresponsible towards their children. Such as, they leave them at home alone for a party. In this case, a private investigator can use the GPS device to collect evidence for court custody.
A private investigator can put a GPS tracker on a vehicle if their client is the registered owner.
Investigation v/s Stalking
There is a thin line between investigation and stalking. As a private detective, you need to identify it. Otherwise, you may have to face lawsuits.
An investigator license permits an investigator to follow someone. Once it is clear that the reason is legal and they have no intention to hurt someone, a private investigator can put a GPS tracker on a vehicle or belongings.
But suppose a private detective puts on a GPS tracker or follows someone because they find them interesting, or due to their curiosity, they may have to face outcomes. The person can even sue them for it.
It is also illegal for a private investigator to investigate someone if the client is not related to the person in any way or has unlawful intention.
How To Find A Hidden GPS Tracker?
Do you think there is an unknown GPS tracker on your vehicle? The private investigators often install a magnetic GPS tracker underneath the car on a metal surface. But they can also hide the GPS tracker:
- In the glove box
- Under the seat
- OBD2 port
- Use a hardwired GPS tracker
Even after much search and effort, you cannot find the GPS tracker. Then you can choose to invest in a GPS scanner. It is available online.
Can You Sue Private Investigators?
If you find out that a private investigator is following you or keeping tabs on you through GPS trackers, you can take refuge from local law enforcement. Moreover, if the investigator is trying to harass or threaten you in any way, you can sue them in court.
Also, a private investigator cannot enter your properties illegally or film the interiors of personal property. Moreover, they cannot hack into your accounts or bank details. If you find that a private investigator is doing any of these, you can immediately sue them in court.
Future of GPS Trackers and Related Laws: Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act
There is also a bill named GPS Act that seeks to throw some clear insight about the usage of the GPS tracker. This bill still awaits consideration by the parliament.
It states: “No person may acquire the geolocation information of a person for protective activities or law enforcement or intelligence purposes except pursuant to a warrant issued pursuant to rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, as amended by section 3, or the amendments made by this Act, or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. ”
To sum it up, we can conclude that a private investigator can employ a GPS tracker with legal intentions. But if you encounter a detective who is threatening you or invading your privacy unlawfully, you can sue them in court.
If you are a private investigator, here is something for you. Family1st offers you an affordable and compact GPS tracker that helps you to monitor your target discreetly. Moreover, with the magnetic case, you can attach it anywhere in a few seconds. And as it is portable you can easily use the same device on multiple vehicles. To know more, visit the website now and talk to our experts.