Florida’s New GPS Law and Where It Applies

Private citizens who use GPS devices against others now face criminal prosecution and penalties

Police officers have used global positioning system technology for years to track down suspects and arrest lawbreakers. Since the technology has become widely available, however, some private citizens have used GPS transmitters and receivers to locate and stalk other people—a recent U.S. Justice Department survey found that one in every 13 stalking cases involves electronic monitoring.

Thanks to a recent law passed in Florida, however, private citizens who use GPS devices against others now face criminal prosecution and penalties.

One case sparked discussions in the Florida Legislature in 2014. In New York, a woman was murdered after her ex-boyfriend hid a GPS transmitter on her car and used it to locate her. Amidst worries that the use of GPS devices will lead to more stalking incidents and privacy violations, Florida now criminalizes the use of a GPS device by a private citizen without his or her target’s consent. Those who violate this new law can be found guilty of a misdemeanor, fined and sentenced to up to six months in jail.

Important Exceptions to Florida’s GPS Law

Florida’s new GPS law is not as far-reaching as it may appear at first. For example, the law does not criminalize:

  • Placing a GPS device on or in your own property. For example, it would not be a violation of the law to put a GPS transmitter on a car that you own, even if your spouse or significant other is the primary driver of the car.
  • Using a GPS transmitter to track your child or an elderly parent for whom you are responsible. A parent is permitted to put a GPS transmitter in his or her child’s backpack, for example, to track the child’s movements. A transmitter can also be used to track the whereabouts of an elderly parent or adult if the person who places the GPS device is responsible for the adult’s care.
  • Use by law enforcement. The new law does not limit the existing ability and right of law enforcement to obtain permission to use GPS devices against suspects.

If you have any questions about whether your intended use of a GPS device violates the law, consult with an experienced attorney before placing or using the device. If you feel that someone has placed a GPS device on your property without your consent, contact local law enforcement right away.

For more information on this area of law, see our overview of criminal defense.

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