Can I Put A GPS Device On A Vehicle?

Being able to track a vehicle in your household may be of importance to you, but is it legal?

Knowing where your vehicle is at all times offers you peace of mind in case of theft. Not only does it provide valuable information, but it may be a cheap alternative to surveillance, with little effort.

At Privin Investigations, we are approached by people seeking tracking services to keep track of their vehicles or other personal possessions. The thing they are most concerned about is knowing whether keeping track of their vehicle is legal or not. So…

Is it Legal to Put a GPS Device on a Vehicle?

Yes, it is entirely legal for you to place a GPS device on any vehicle or asset that you own but you should also check with your local and state laws. New cases are being brought to light all the time, and being informed may help you in your case, or problem.

However, this is not the same for a vehicle that you do not own. As of September 2022, most US states consider GPS tracking on another person’s car illegal.

Other ways putting GPS on your vehicle may assist you include:

  • Children Safety
  • Business Owner Seeking to track their fleet of vehicles
  • Theft Prevention

When is it legal to put GPS on your vehicle?

Understanding the legal landscape around the use of GPS tracking devices on vehicles is fundamental for both individuals and businesses. This section explains the circumstances under which it is permissible to install and use GPS technology on vehicles you own or manage.

Ensuring Safety and Security

GPS technology offers peace of mind for many, particularly for parents and caregivers of children or elderly individuals with health issues such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. These devices help monitor the whereabouts of vulnerable loved ones, providing critical information in emergency situations. For instance, in the event a child goes missing, a GPS device can provide real-time location data, drastically reducing search time and enhancing safety.

Business Operations and Asset Management

In the realm of business, GPS tracking is a game-changer for efficiency and accountability. Companies utilize this technology to oversee fleet movements, optimize delivery routes, manage logistics, and ensure compliance with work policies. For example, a logistics company might use GPS data to streamline operations, reduce fuel consumption, and ensure that drivers adhere to planned routes and schedules.

Theft Prevention and Asset Recovery

GPS tracking also plays a crucial role in theft prevention and recovery. Owners of expensive machinery, vehicles, and other high-value assets can track their property’s location in real-time, significantly increasing the chances of recovery after theft. Legal use here is predicated on ownership; you must own the asset or have the owner’s permission to legally place a GPS tracking device on it.

Practical Applications of GPS Tracking

Beyond personal and business asset monitoring, GPS tracking has versatile applications across different fields:

  • Wildlife Research and Conservation: Researchers use GPS tracking to study migration patterns and habitats of endangered species, contributing to effective conservation strategies.
  • Emergency Services: GPS technology is crucial in emergency response strategies, allowing for quick location of individuals in need of urgent help.

These applications showcase how GPS tracking technology serves not just businesses or concerned parents but also plays a critical role in health, science, and safety.

Frequently Asked Questions about GPS Tracking

1. Is it legal to track someone without their knowledge?

Generally, it is illegal to track someone without their consent. Laws vary by location, but tracking a vehicle or person without their knowledge often infringes on privacy rights. Always consult legal advice before initiating any tracking activity.
It is imperative to understand that installing a GPS device on someone else’s property without consent is not only unethical but also illegal. This includes any form of covert tracking involving individuals who have not given their explicit consent, which could be deemed as stalking or an invasion of privacy.

2. How accurate are GPS trackers?

GPS trackers are quite accurate, generally pinpointing a location within a few meters. The accuracy can be affected by factors such as satellite positioning, weather conditions, and urban canyon effects in dense city environments.

3. What should I do if I find an unauthorized GPS tracker on my vehicle?

If you discover an unauthorized GPS tracker on your vehicle, you may want to consult law enforcement or legal counsel to understand your rights and the best course of action. This can also help ensure that any necessary legal steps are properly followed.

4. Can I use a GPS tracker for my delivery business?

Yes, using GPS trackers in a delivery business is a common practice to manage fleets, optimize routes, and improve service reliability. However, it’s important to ensure that all tracking is compliant with local laws and regulations, and that employees are informed about the tracking devices on company vehicles.

5. How do I maintain a GPS tracker?

Maintaining a GPS tracker involves ensuring its firmware is up to date, regularly checking the battery life, and verifying that its mounting location remains secure and unobstructed for signal transmission. Regular maintenance will help keep the device accurate and functional for a longer period.

Court cases involving GPS tracking devices that have shaped GPS laws

Elgin v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in 2005: In this case, an employee’s company-issued vehicle was being tracked during and outside of work hours. The employee’s claim was rejected because the vehicle was owned by the company.

Tubbs v. Wynn Transport in 2007: A case in which an employee’s company-owned vehicle was being tracked without his knowledge. The decision sided with the employer who owned the vehicle and who, according to the court, had every right to track its whereabouts.

United States v. Jones in 2011: This case was brought about after police placed a GPS tracker on the vehicle of a suspected drug trafficker. The evidence obtained through the use of the GPS tracker was enough to convict Jones, but the courts ended up ruling against the police, calling it a violation of Jones’s Fourth Amendment rights. Jones is no longer serving his prison sentence.

Cunningham v. New York Department of Labor in 2013: In this case, an employee’s personal vehicle was being tracked even after hours, without his knowledge. However, this employee had been previously disciplined for falsified time reporting. The court ruled in favor of the employer as the GPS evidence clearly showed that the employee was falsifying his work time.

United States v. Katzin in 2013: A case in which the police placed a GPS tracker on the vehicle of a man they suspected of a chain of robberies. The charges against the Katzin brothers were ultimately dropped because the court decided that this was a Fourth Amendment violation on the part of the police.

Work with Private Investigators

A good general rule of thumb for licensed private investigators is if the owner of the vehicle or asset is requesting the service, then it is generally ok. Private investigators must remain knowledgeable about new laws in regards to GPS and should always conduct their private investigations in a professional, legal manner.

Worried about your vehicle’s security or managing your assets effectively?

Privin Investigations is here to help. Connect with our experts today for a detailed consultation and discover how our personalized GPS tracking solutions can secure your peace of mind. Navigate the complexities of GPS technology legally and efficiently with us.

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