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GPS Tracking Laws Texas

GPS Tracking Laws Texas – Facts About Using GPS Devices In TX

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

Suppose you disregard the laws regarding vehicle tracking systems and install a hidden GPS tracker in a private vehicle, on private property. What could happen in Texas? Well, Texas identifies this action as a Class A Misdemeanor. Penalties for Class A Misdemeanors in Texas include fines up to $4,000.

If caught placing a real-time GPS tracker in a vehicle you don’t own, you could face legal consequences. That’s why it’s essential to consult a criminal attorney. They can provide critical help, whether you choose to plead guilty or not. Remember, even in challenging situations, a skilled criminal defense attorney can assist in reducing your sentence or fine. Always respect privacy laws to avoid such predicaments.

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.

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

GPS Tracking Laws Texas – Conclusion

In conclusion, understanding GPS tracking laws in Texas is essential. You can legally buy and use a tracking device in Texas, but installing it on a vehicle you don’t own, particularly on private property, is a crime. Exceptions apply if you’re the owner or lessee of the motor vehicle, or if you’re placing the device on a vehicle parked in public.

Effective consent, whether explicit or implied, can act as an affirmative defense if charges arise from using a tracking device. However, misuse of such devices, which emit an electronic frequency, could lead to criminal charges. In case of illegal installation in a criminal investigation or pursuant, you may face a Class A Misdemeanor, with a potential $4000 fine.

Police must obtain warrants before using trackers, and any data collected without one may not be admissible in court. Always consult a legal professional for advice on these complex matters, as laws are subject to change. Staying informed ensures you stay within the boundaries of the law.

 GPS tracking laws in Texas are always subject to change. Therefore, we recommend you speak with a legal professional about tracking devices in order to get up-to-date information about the legal use of vehicle surveillance solutions. This article on Texas GPS tracking laws should not substitute legal advice!

Fernando Gonzalez
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