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Track and Trace: The Legality of GPS Use By Private Investigators

People who hire private investigators often want to find a missing person or bust a cheating husband and wife. But did you know that through the use of real time GPS trackers, private detectives can find out everywhere a private citizen goes? That thought can be a little scary. So in this article, we wanted to explain the benefits of GPS, legal issues surrounding the use of a spouse GPS tracker, and why a hidden GPS is an awesome tool for private investigators. Let’s dive in!

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Related Article: 5 Best Security Products For Private Investigators

GPS Trackers And Private Detectives – The Facts

Private investigators are typically hired to conduct lawful investigations such as being hired by a spouse to check for infidelity or by businesses to gather evidence for corporate investigations. People in the private investigator industry can perform background checks, conduct surveillance, and analyze evidence to present to the client. This includes investigating criminal records, financial background, education history, and more. Surveillance can be done through the physical following, the use of GPS technology, microphones, and recorders, as well as digital methods such as monitoring social media and web history. The investigator will then evaluate the collected evidence and present it to the client. Now, let’s take a closer look at some quick FAQs and a breakdown of the 3 most common ways detectives conduct investigations. 

  • In the United States, it is legal for private investigators to use GPS tracking devices as long as they are not used to track individuals on private property or in areas where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
  • The use of car GPS tracking devices by private investigators is governed by federal and state laws, which vary from state to state.
  • Private investigators are typically only allowed to use GPS to track vehicles, not individuals.
  • Private investigators are typically required to have a court order or the consent of the vehicle’s owner to legally track a vehicle using GPS.
  • In some cases, private investigators may need to obtain a warrant before they can use a car or motorcycle GPS tracker. 
  • Misuse of a GPS vehicle tracker by a private investigator can result in legal repercussions such as fines, penalties, and even jail time.

Background Checks – What Do Private Detectives Look For In A Background Investigation?

A private investigator can perform background checks on their target by looking into their details such as criminal records, financial background, education history, etc.

Common Forms Of Surveillance

A private investigator may conduct surveillance in different ways, including physically following the target, using GPS tracking systems, microphones, or recorders, and digitally following targets on social media or checking web history or digital trash.

Investigations

Lastly, a private investigator will look into the evidence and analyze whether it is sufficient, and then present it to the client. This is when the investigator will share GPS surveillance data of a husband and wife cheating and show everywhere that target has been. 

5 Benefits Of Real Time GPS Trackers For Private Detectives

  1. Real-Time GPS Location Tracking: A GPS vehicle tracker can provide private investigators with real-time location information, allowing them to quickly and easily track the movements of a subject. This can be helpful in personal tracking situations such as when a licensed private investigator is hired to catch a cheating spouse.
  2. Evidence Gathering: GPS vehicle tracking data can be used as evidence in court, providing private investigators with concrete proof of a subject’s movements and activities (permissible purpose).
  3. Conducting Surveillance: Hidden GPS trackers can help private investigators work more efficiently by providing them with accurate location information and allowing them to track down people remotely.
  4. Personal Safety: Private investigator GPS tracker solutions allow detectives to stay safe by allowing them to track down people without putting themselves in harm’s way.
  5. Affordable Spy Gear: Compared to other security product options on the market, waterproof magnetic GPS devices are relatively inexpensive. This makes hidden GPS devices a great tool for private investigators working on a budget.

Legal and Illegal Use of GPS Trackers By Private Investigators

GPS vehicle trackers have become an essential tool for private investigators to gather information and evidence. However, you should understand the legal and ethical boundaries when using GPS tracking devices. In this section, we will explore the legal and illegal use of GPS trackers by private investigators, including the laws and regulations that govern their use, and the potential consequences of misuse.

Corporate Investigations – Employer & Employee

As an employer, you may want to put a portable GPS tracker on a company car to cut down on unnecessary operational costs if you find out that employees are using it for personal interests. However, you can also hire a private investigator to investigate an employee for defrauding the company, such as sharing company plans with a competitor.

It is important to note that it is illegal for you, as an employer, or a private investigator to use a GPS tracker to track an employee’s whereabouts after work or while they are on leave. This constitutes stalking, which is a punishable offense

Cheating – Husband And Wife 

A private investigator may use a spouse GPS tracker on a client’s request if the client suspects their husband or wife of infidelity. However, it is illegal for a private investigator to use a GPS tracker if the couple is already separated. 

If you are the registered owner of the vehicle, you can lawfully track it for the purposes of fleet management or theft recovery. 

Divorce – Child Custody & Unfit Parenting 

Private investigators may use GPS tracking devices to conduct surveillance in child custody cases. This can include tracking the parent’s movements and locations, as well as monitoring their use of a vehicle to ensure the safety of the children. This type of surveillance often occurs when one parent has drug problems, a criminal past, or is simply an unfit parent. Hidden GPS tracking devices can be used to gather the information that can be presented in court to support a client’s case for custody.

FAQS

Stalking vs Investigating – When Is A Private Investigator Breaking The Law?

Distinguishing between legal investigation and illegal stalking is crucial for private investigators. Failure to do so can result in legal action. As a private investigator, it is important to ensure that your actions are in line with the law and do not harm others.

While an investigator’s license allows for the legal tracking of individuals, it is important to ensure that the reason for the investigation is lawful and that there is no intent to cause harm. Using a hidden GPS tracker or conducting surveillance for personal interest or curiosity can result in legal repercussions so you shouldn’t be reckless when conducting GPS surveillance. 

Not to mention, it is illegal for a private investigator to investigate an individual if there is no valid reason or the client has unlawful intentions.

Can You Sue A Private Investigator For Putting A GPS Tracker On Your Car?

Whether or not you can sue a private investigator for putting a tracker on your car depends on the laws and regulations of your state and the circumstances under which the private investigator placed the tracker. In general, the use of GPS tracking devices by private investigators is legal in the United States as long as they are not used to track individuals on private property or in areas where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, if the investigator placed the tracker on your car without your consent or without a valid reason, it may be considered an invasion of privacy and you may have grounds to sue for damages

TLDR: The main difference between a private investigator stalking and conducting an investigation is the legality and ethicality of the actions taken. A private investigator conducting an investigation follows laws and adheres to a code of conduct, while stalking is illegal and can cause fear or distress to the target.

For more information on the issue of GPS tracking among private detectives please feel free to visit the Bureau of Security & Investigative Services 

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