House votes to criminalize most GPS tracking

Posted September 2, 2015

A GPS unit installed in a vehicle allows parents to track the driving habits of their teens.

— State House lawmakers voted Wednesday to ban the use of GPS devices to track people in most cases.

Senate Bill 238 would add GPS tracking to the definition of "cyberstalking," which is a Class 2 misdemeanor under state law.

Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, the House manager of the bill, said it makes exceptions for law enforcement, rental or fleet vehicle owners, creditors and car manufacturers in some cases.

Parents would also still be allowed to use GPS devices to track their children's locations, and people can still put GPS devices on their own vehicles, as long as their intent is not to track another adult.

"This involves a serious problem that needs to be addressed," Stam said.

The bill itself, however, presents a serious problem for private investigators who use GPS trackers to keep tabs on the locations and movement of subjects of investigations.

The measure, as amended on the floor Wednesday, would allow private investigators to use GPS trackers only if they're investigating criminal behavior, finding lost or stolen property or if the subject they're investigating has threatened someone with injury or death. They could not use it to track someone's whereabouts in investigating possible infidelity.

"If a person personally does not have the right to use GPS, why should they be able to go out and contract with someone to use it on their behalf?" explained Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford.

Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, argued the bill was not sufficiently vetted in committee and will likely have unforeseen consequences. He urged his fellow House members to reject the measure and study the issue more carefully.

"This is an issue that’s going to affect people's livelihoods. This is an issue that’s going to affect people’s liberty," Speciale warned. "We’ve passed bills here where we did not do our homework, and it came back to haunt us, and we had to make corrections.

"There is no emergency that causes us to have to pass this bill," he said. "GPS has been out for years. A few more months won’t hurt anything. We need to get it right."

But Rep. Jonathan Jordan, R-Ashe, argued that the bill had been studied "extensively."

"To protect the liberty of people who are being tracked by GPS, we need to put this into law now," Jordan urged.

The bill passed the House 98-6. It now goes back to the Senate for approval of the House's changes.


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  • Bobby Broadwell Sep 4, 2015
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    good grief...our new legislature sure do love writing new excessive crazy laws...wow!

  • Roger Way Sep 3, 2015
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    Jack, buddy, your knowledge of PI's is pitiful. Most PI's are former or retired police officers, investigators, detectives, and federal or state agents. PI's and Bail Enforcers (bounty hunters) have far fewer legal restrictions placed on them than police officers. PI's are basically professional observers, researchers, and reporters working as agents for an individual or group. Don't believe the garbage you see on TV. It is a valued and highly skilled profession.

  • Jack Harris Sep 3, 2015
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    Is it currently legal for a PI to place a tracking device on a persons personnel vehicle??? If not then the PI should be arrested for it!. A PI has no legal right of arrest and should not be able to violate anyone's personnel property rights!. Actually most PI are wantabe Police or have been a Police officer and cannot adapt to not having the POWER!

  • Matt Wood Sep 2, 2015
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    Which legislator(s) are worried about getting caught cheating on their spouse?