Private Use of Location Tracking Devices: State Statutes

2/14/2022

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Summary

Mobile tracking devices, once the bailiwick of private investigators, spies and law enforcement, are now widely available to anyone online and in stores.

The devices can be worn or attached to a car or other object, and the location information they collect can be monitored from afar via computer.

The market for the devices is growing as parents use them to keep tabs on children and teenagers, caregivers use them to monitor individuals with dementia and as individuals use them to help locate lost personal items. 

At least 23 states and the District of Columbia have addressed privacy concerns raised when individuals track the movements of others without their knowledge.

In seven of those states (Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma) and in D.C., prohibitions on location tracking are part of stalking laws.

Of the other states, nine—Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin—prohibit installing a location tracking device on a motor vehicle without the consent of the vehicle owner.

In six states (California, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Virginia) laws more broadly prohibit the use of electronic tracking devices, not just on vehicles, and not just in the context of stalking, but when they are used to determine the location or movement of a person without consent.

Most of the laws in the latter two categories include various exceptions, such as those allowing for:

  • Lawful use by law enforcement.
  • Use by employers in connection with an employee’s work (e.g., Illinois, Rhode Island, Virginia).
  • Use by a parent or guardian on a minor child’s vehicle (e.g., Delaware, Michigan, Tennessee).
  • Use by private investigators (e.g., Texas, Virginia).
  • Use by a legally authorized representative of an incapacitated adult (e.g., Virginia).
  • Use by commercial motor carriers, car manufacturers, fleet vehicle owners or telematics services (e.g., Illinois, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Tennessee).

Links to and summaries of state laws are listed below.

Table of State Statutes

Private Use of Mobile Tracking Devices

State

Statutory Citation

Summary or Statutory Excerpt

Alaska

Alaska Code § 11-41-270(H)

Stalking

Stalking includes following or monitoring a person with a global positioning device or similar technological means.

Arizona

Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-2923

Stalking

Stalking includes the use of any electronic, digital or global positioning system device to surveil a specific person or a specific person's internet or wireless activity continuously for twelve hours or more or on two or more occasions over a period of time, however short, without authorization.

California

Cal. Pen. Code § 637.7

Miscellaneous Crimes

Prohibits using electronic tracking devices to follow people, with some exemptions.

 

Defines an "electronic tracking device" as "any device attached to a vehicle or other movable thing that reveals its location or movement by the transmission of electronic signals." 

Connecticut

CGS § 53a-181f

Electronic stalking: Class B misdemeanor. 

A person is guilty of electronic stalking when such person recklessly causes another person to reasonably fear for his or her physical safety by wilfully and repeatedly using a global positioning system or similar electronic monitoring system to remotely determine or track the position or movement of such other person.

Delaware

11 Del. C. § 1335(8)

Offenses Against Public Health, Order and Decency

Delaware prohibits individuals from knowingly installing an electronic or mechanical location tracking device in or on a motor vehicle without the consent of the registered owner, lessor or lessee of the vehicle.

Florida

Fla. Stat. § 934.425

Security of Communications, Surveillance

A person may not knowingly install a tracking device or tracking application on another person’s property without the other person’s consent.

(3) For purposes of this section, a person’s consent is presumed to be revoked if:

(a) The consenting person and the person to whom consent was given are lawfully married and one person files a petition for dissolution of marriage from the other; or

(b) The consenting person or the person to whom consent was given files an injunction for protection against the other person.

Hawaii

H.R.S. § 803-41, H.R.S. § 803-42

Electronic Eavesdropping

Prohibits intentional use of a mobile tracking device without first obtaining a search warrant or other order, unless the device is installed consent.

 

Defines "tracking device" as "an electronic or mechanical device that permits the tracking of the movement of a person or object."

Illinois

720 ILCS 5/12-7.3

Stalking

A person commits stalking when he or she has previously been convicted of stalking another person and knowingly and without lawful justification on one occasion: (1) follows that same person or places that same person under surveillance; and (2) transmits a threat of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement or restraing to that person or a family member of that person.

(7) "Places a person under surveillance" means: (1) remaining present outside the person's school, place of employment, vehicle, other place occupied by the person, or residence other than the residence of the defendant; or (2) placing an electronic tracking device on the person or the person's property.

Illinois

720 ILCS 5/21-2.5

Trespass

Prohibits use of an electronic tracking device to determine the location or movement of a person.

 

“Electronic tracking device” means any device attached to a vehicle that reveals its location or movement by the transmission of electronic signals.

Louisiana

La. R.S. § 14:323

Tracking devices prohibited; penalty

Prohibits any person from using a tracking device to determine the location or movement of another person without consent.

 

A "tracking device" means any device that reveals its location or movement by the transmission of electronic signals.

Michigan

MCLS 750.5392Tracking device; placement or installment on motor vehicle without consent

Prohibits placing a tracking device in or on a motor vehicle without consent.

 

"Tracking device" means any electronic device that is designed or intended to be used to track the location of a motor vehicle regardless of whether that information is recorded. 

Minnesota

Minn. Stat. § 626A.35

General pro-hibition on pen register, trap and trace device and mobile tracking device use

Prohibits any individual from using a tracking device without a court order authorizing them to do so, with one exception.

 

Defines "mobile tracking device" as an electronic or mechanical device that permits the tracking of the movement of a person or object. 

New Hampshire

N.H. Rev. Stat. § 644-A:4 Conditions of Use of Location Information.

No individual or person shall, without consent, place, locate, or install an electronic device on the person or property of another and obtain location information from such electronic device.

 

"Electronic device" means a device that enables access to or use of an electronic communication service, remote computing service, or location information service, including without limitation a cellular telephone."

New York

NY CLS Penal § 120.45

Stalking in the fourth degree

For the purposes of subdivision two of this section, “following” shall include the unauthorized tracking of such person’s movements or location through the use of a global positioning system or other device.

A person is guilty of stalking in the fourth degree when he or she intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person, and knows or reasonably should know that such conduct:…

2. causes material harm to the mental or emotional health of such person, where such conduct consists of following, telephoning or initiating communication or contact with such person, a member of such person’s immediate family or a third party with whom such person is acquainted, and the actor was previously clearly informed to cease that conduct....

North Carolina

NCGS § 14-196.3

Cyberstalking

Makes it unlawful to knowingly install, place, or use an electronic tracking device without consent, or cause an electronic tracking device to be installed, placed, or used without consent, to track the location of any person.

 

Electronic tracking device is "an electronic or mechanical device that permits a person to remotely determine or track the position and movement of another person."

North Dakota

N.D. Cent. Code, § 12.1-17-07.1

Stalking

The definition of stalk includes…

(2) The unauthorized tracking of the person’s movements or location through the use of a global positioning system or other electronic means that would cause a reasonable person to be frightened, intimidated, or harassed and which serves no legitimate purpose.

Oklahoma

21 Okl. St. § 1173

Stalking

For purposes of determining the crime of stalking, the following definitions shall apply: ....6. “Following” shall include the tracking of the movement or location of an individual through the use of a Global Positioning System (GPS) device or other monitoring device by a person, or person who acts on behalf of another, without the consent of the individual whose movement or location is being tracked; provided, this shall not apply to the lawful use of a GPS device or other monitoring device or to the use by a new or used motor vehicle dealer or other motor vehicle creditor of a GPS device or other monitoring device, including a device containing technology used to remotely disable the ignition of a motor vehicle, in connection with lawful action after default of the terms of a motor vehicle credit sale, loan or lease, and with the express written consent of the owner or lessee of the motor vehicle.

Oregon

ORS § 163.715

Offenses against persons

Establishes the crime of unlawful use of a global positioning system device if the person knowingly affixes a global positioning system device to a motor vehicle without consent of the owner of the motor vehicle.

Rhode Island

R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-69-1

Electronic tracking of motor vehicles

It is an offense for a person to knowingly install, conceal, or otherwise place or use an electronic tracking device in or on a motor vehicle without the consent of the operator and all occupants of the vehicle for the purpose of monitoring or following the operator, occupant, or occupants of the vehicle.

Tennessee

Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-606 

Electronic tracking of motor vehicles

Tennessee makes it illegal for an individual to install, conceal, or otherwise place a mobile tracking device in a motor vehicle. 

Texas

Tex. Penal Code § 16.06

Unlawful installation of tracking device

Provides that it is illegal for any individual to place a tracking device in a motor vehicle, while providing for some exceptions.

 

Defines "Electronic or mechanical tracking device" as a device capable of emitting an electronic frequency or other signal that may be used by a person to identify, monitor, or record the location of another person or object. 

Utah

Utah Code § 76-9-408

Unlawful installation of a tracking device

Prohibits a person from knowingly installing, or directing another to install, a tracking device on a motor vehicle owned or leased by another person, without the permission of the owner or lessee of the vehicle.

Virginia

Va. Code § 18.2-60.5

Unauthorized use of electronic tracking device

Prohibits using an electronic tracking device, through intentionally deceptive means, to track the location of any person without consent.

 

Defines "Electronic tracking device" as an electronic or mechanical device that permits a person to remotely determine or track the position and movement of another person.

Wisconsin

Wisc. Stat. § 940.315

Global positioning devices

(1) Whoever does any of the following is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor:

(a) Places a global positioning device or a device equipped with global positioning technology on a vehicle owned or leased by another person without that person’s consent.

(b) Intentionally obtains information regarding another person’s movement or location generated by a global positioning device or a device equipped with global positioning technology that has been placed without that person’s consent.

District of Columbia

DC Code § 22-3132

Stalking

It is unlawful for a person to purposefully engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific individual: ….

  • To engage in a course of conduct” means directly or indirectly, or through one or more third persons, in person or by any means, on 2 or more occasions, to:
  • Follow, monitor, place under surveillance, threaten, or communicate to or about another individual; ….

(1) “Any device” means electronic, mechanical, digital or any other equipment, including: a camera, spycam, computer, spyware, microphone, audio or video recorder, global positioning system, electronic monitoring system, listening device, night-vision goggles, binoculars, telescope, or spyglass.

*Does not include statutes related to government/law enforcement’s ability to use or request warrants to use mobile tracking devices.