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Unlawful Use Of GPS Tracker Could Land You In Jail

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These tiny GPS trackers are motion activated, preserving battery life for weeks

UPDATE 01/23/2012:  U.S. Supreme Court ruling: ‘Attaching a GPS device to a vehicle then using device to monitor the vehicle’s movements constitutes a search under Fourth Amendment’ – United States v. Jones

Just this morning I read an article in the OC Register about a Costa Mesa cop being charged with hiding a GPS device in a woman’s car without her knowledge so he could follow her. The article didn’t spill many details about the stalking case except that the cop had a prior relationship with the woman and allegedly used the device to randomly show up at locations she traveled to, attempting to “rekindle their relationship”.

This sounds a little far fetched to try and win back an ex-lover, especially when you carry a badge and a gun. If you’re interested in reading the articles, the OC Register story is here and the official District Attorney press release is here.

As a private investigator in Orange County, I’ve had clients ask about GPS tracking devices and how they can be used to keep tabs on a significant other.  The first question is never what the device can do or how often it pings the satellites for updates; they ask if it’s legal. Smart, right? Absolutely! They also ask if someone will be able to find the device and if it can be traced back to them. My response: I tell them the inside scoop and then give them a quick print out of the information you see below.

Here’s what the California Penal Code has to say about the use of an Electronic Tracking Device

California Tracking Device Law: California Penal Code section 637.7 states: (a) No person or entity in this state shall use an electronic tracking device to determine the location or movement of a person. (b) This section shall not apply when the registered owner, lesser, or lessee of a vehicle has consented to the use of the electronic tracking device with respect to that vehicle. (c) This section shall not apply to the lawful use of an electronic tracking device by a law enforcement agency. (d) As used in this section, “electronic tracking device” means any device attached to a vehicle or other movable thing that reveals its location or movement by transmission of electronic signals. (e) A violation of this section is a misdemeanor.

By the way, Section 637.7 refers to all electronic tracking devices, and does not differentiate between those that rely on GPS technology or not. As the laws catch up with the times, it is plausible that all 50 states will eventually enact laws similar to those of California. Here are two PDF documents that provide legal guidance to law enforcement. 1. “Hotsheet” on law enforcement’s rules and regulations for using GPS trackers, written by San Bernardino Co. Deputy DA James Hosking. 2. Congressional Research Service – Law Enforcement Use Of GPS Tracking Devices To Monitor Motor Vehicles

Tracking devices are great, don’t get me wrong, the technology is truly amazing. There is nothing more enjoyable than helping out a client in need, but not without letting them know the law and the ramifications of illegal use. Additionally, hiring a private investigator who is properly licensed and knowledgeable with state laws should be able to steer you in the right direction on choosing the device that’s right for your particular situation. Knowing when and where these devices can be used is key to keeping yourself out of unnecessary trouble.

Exclusive Video: GPS Tracking Devices

Stalkers use GPS devices to track victims

Alleged stalking victim found tracking device under car

Police continue to use GPS to track suspects despite murky law

About the Author:

Ryan Garrahy is a California state licensed private investigator with over 10yrs experience, and owner/operator of Orange Investigations.

Orange Investigations | State Lic. 25492 | Office: (714) 248-5050 |

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One Response

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  1. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it! Now you look on my blog .

    Josefa Keanu

    November 26, 2010 at 9:17 am

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