GPS Vehicle Tracking Laws In Texas
Facts About Using GPS Car Tracking Devices In Texas
Whether you live in Houston and have a gut feeling she is cheating or you are a parent in San Antonio worried your teen could be driving recklessly, it is very likely you considered using a hidden GPS tracker to find out the truth. Sadly, a criminal investigation, bitter Texas divorce, or contentious child custody case are all potential reasons any private citizen would invest in an electronic surveillance device. But is it legal to place a mini GPS tracker on someone’s vehicle in the state of Texas? This article was created to help anyone seeking facts and the latest information about GPS vehicle tracking, and clearly answer the question, “Is it legal to put a GPS device on someone’s vehicle in Texas!”
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Is It Legal To Put A GPS Device On Someone’s Car In Texas?
Texas Laws On Unlawful Installation Of Tracking Devices
Let’s start with some simple facts. First, are GPS vehicle tracking devices legal to purchase? Yes, anyone in Texas can legally buy a mini GPS car tracker. Second, is it illegal to equip a vehicle tracker on someone else’s automobile in Texas? Yes and no. Let’s break this answer down a little more for clarity. If you hide a tracker inside an automobile that you do not own then that would be considered illegal. The inside of a vehicle is considered private property so entering a vehicle you do not own is a misdemeanor. However, there are some ways to secretly track a vehicle and bypass this. Below are some examples:
- In Texas, if you own the vehicle, you can legally hide a car GPS tracker outside or inside of the vehicle
- Companies can utilize car tracking devices on business vehicles
- Legally, you can put a GPS tracking system on an automobile you are not the registered owner of if the GPS car tracker is attached upon the outside of the vehicle, and when you put the GPS device under the car it is parked on a public street
- Placing a GPS tracker inside any vehicle you do not own while that vehicle is on private property is illegal
Chapter 16.06 of the Texas Penal Code addresses the unlawful installation of GPS trackers as:
(b) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly installs an electronic or mechanical tracking device on a motor vehicle owned or leased by another person.
Simply put, you could be charged with a misdemeanor if you put a hidden GPS tracker in a vehicle that you are the registered owner of. Section 16.06(a)(2) also states that the term “motor vehicle” has the meaning defined by Section 501.002, Transportation Code.
Punishment For Illegal Use Of GPS Trackers In Texas
So let’s say you are dumb enough to not adhere to any of the facts about the legal use of a vehicle tracking system and enter a private vehicle on private property and put a hidden GPS tracker in the glove box. What is the penalty in Texas for the illegal use of a GPS vehicle tracker? The state of Texas defines this action as a Class A Misdemeanor. Class A Misdemeanors in Texas are punishable by a fine (no more than $4,000 max). If you do get caught entering a vehicle you do not own, hiding a real time GPS tracker in it, and are found guilty by the court, it is important that you speak with a criminal attorney to help on your behalf. Even if you pleaded guilty, a good criminal defense attorney can help you get the lowest possible sentence or fine.
Texas Police Use Of GPS
Law enforcement agencies in Texas have to adhere to the Wiretap Act and first acquire a warrant from a judge before using any electronic surveillance or GPS devices on a vehicle. Unlawful installation of a real time GPS on the automobile of a private citizen could lead to evidence being thrown out of court or a criminal investigation pursuant to electronic communication. The Supreme Court was very clear on this when they stated in United States vs Jones that police couldn’t 4th Amendment rights of any private citizen when the officer who installed a GPS tracker had all his evidence thrown out of court. Even though the peace officer had good intentions when he installed the device on the Jones’ vehicle, he should have first got a warrant and been authorized to install the tracker.
Related Article: Examples Of Police Misconduct
Arguing Effective Consent From Owner or Lessee Of Vehicle In Texas
Another factor to consider if you are thinking about using a personal GPS tracker to spy on a vehicle is effective consent. Basically, the legal language regarding consent means you got implied consent or explicit consent from the owner of the vehicle before equipping a tracking device on their car. Explicit consent refers to you informing the vehicle owner about a GPS device before placing it on the vehicle. This is where a criminal defense attorney can argue for your defense. Effective consent refers to consent being implied. Think of a parent leased or let their teen borrow a family vehicle so they could make sure the teenager was driving safely.
If you did not provide written consent and believe a GPS device was installed on your vehicle we recommend you take the automobile to a mechanic for a visual inspection for anything emitting an electronic signal. If you want to learn more about Texas statutes regarding GPS tracking and laws about stored communications it is best to contact a Texas Family law firm or law practice that has a background in wiretapping, GPS tracking, and surveillance technologies.
Related Article: GPS Tracking Laws By State
Sage is a freelance writer with a background in information technology.