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Using a GPS to track a spouse is illegal, right? Recalculating…

On Behalf of | Jul 8, 2011 | Divorce

It’s apparently becoming a common question: is it legal to potentially track cheating spouses using a GPS device, particularly if it can lead to grounds for divorce? A New Jersey court says yes, and it could have implications for people in Colorado and other states.

The case revolves around a police officer and his now-ex-wife. When she suspected he was cheating during their marriage, she reportedly hired a private detective, who suggested she put a GPS device in her husband’s car, which they both owned. This led the detective to find the husband with another woman.

The officer sued his wife and the investigator for invasion of privacy. However, an appellate court ruled this week that using a GPS device to track someone’s whereabouts on public streets is not an invasion of privacy. And that’s apparently a boon to private investigators, who can regularly use GPS devices – not just in divorce cases, but for child custody cases, fraud investigations and background checks.

According to reports, there are no state laws, at least in New Jersey, that govern the use of GPS tracking devices. One private investigator noted that detectives will only use GPS tracking devices when conditions warrant it. The devices are apparently only put in cars on public streets. Also, the spouse must have some sort of financial or legal connection to the vehicle.

In the police officer’s case, the court ruled that there was no evidence showing that the GPS device in his vehicle captured a movement of his in a secluded location that was not public.

Whether other states issue similar rulings is unknown. But one thing is clear: further clarification will be necessary everywhere as technology grows sleeker.

Source: NJ.com, “Judge rules use of GPS to track a cheating spouse is not an invasion of privacy,” MaryAnn Spoto, 7 July 2011