Hunt Private Investigations often receives requests to place GPS tracking devices on privately owned vehicles for a wide variety of reasons including; employment verifcation, to establich residency, child custody, marital infidelity and for concerend parents who want to know their child’s activities and wherabouts.  Modern GPS devices can be useful tools for gathering information about where someone is or for establishing a history of where they’ve been and it can be substantially cheaper that hiring an investigatoer by the hour for surveillance depending upon the goal you are trying to achieve. 

What GPS can do: 

There are two types of GPS tracking systems, active systems and passive systems.  An active system is one that provides real time, or very close to real time information via the internet regarding the whereabouts of the GPS unit.  This system is ideal for following someone who might suspect they are under surveillance because you don’t have to be right on top of them. 

Passive systems do not provide real time data.  They are placed on the vehicle for a period of time then the device is recovered and the data is downloaded from the unit.  This system works great if you want general information about where the subject or the subject’s vehicle has been over a period of time.  One application would be determining where someone is working or residing.

GPS Limitations:

If you need to know what someone is actually doing, or who someone is meeting or associating with, GPS technology would not apply and surveillance is probably the better option. 
Legal Ramifications:

The most important consideration for deciding whether or not a GPS device can be used in an investigation is: WHO OWNS THE VEHCILES THAT THE DEVICE IS GOING TO BE PLACED ON. In California, it is a violation of law to place a GPS device on a vehicle without the consent of the registered owner:  
Section 637.7 of the California Penal Code states that “no person or entity in this state shall use an electronic tracking device to determine the location or movement of a person.” Part (a) of this section, however, states that GPS tracking devices may be used if the registered owner, lessor or lessee of the vehicle gives permission for the device to be used. Note that this may not necessarily be the driver of the vehicle at a given time.

Penalties for violating this law can include a fine and up to six months in jail. A licensed private investigator who violates this law may have their license revoked as well.

At the end of the day, GPS tracking systems are just another tool in a good investigator’s tool box.  Like a good camera, digital recorder or your trusty binoculars, sometimes it’s the right tool for the job!

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