Normally, I wouldn’t include a legal article on the blog, but since we’ve posted about GPS trackers in the past, it seemed appropriate. A new law has been signed into effect in New York today making it a Class B misdemeanor to use GPS to track someone’s vehicle or movements with the intent to harm and without their permission. Under this law, police can now prosecute without requiring the victim to press charges. As GPS trackers of all types, sizes and prices are becoming extremely common, I’m not incredibly surprised to see legislation starting to finally catch up. What’s actually surprising is that it took this long.
Currently, there are laws in place—upheld by the Supreme Court—that prevent police from tracking a suspect’s car without a search warrant. GPS tracking over the longterm is determined to be a search, which is covered under the 4th Amendment. However, the laws about civilians tracking each other are a little foggy and vary widely from state to state.
According to this informative article, it is currently illegal to track someone via GPS without their consent in Minnesota, California, Texas and Virginia. As of today, New York is added to the list and I expect that within the next few years the list will continue to grow. At least, until the federal government decides they ought to step in and lay down some solid guidelines.
The real gray area of most of the laws comes when you are tracking a spouse in a car that you both own. Do they have expectation of privacy when driving a car they only partially own? Can you be prosecuted for tracking something that is essentially yours? Personally, it seems to me that everyone should have the right to expect they will not be tracked without knowledge and consent, but that may not be the case. GPS is evolving quickly, and laws are clearly struggling to catch up.