Hidden GPS Tracker Could Lead You to Criminal Charges in Massachusetts

GPS tracking can be quite convenient. It’s a quick, easy, and affordable way to monitor a person or vehicle. It’s especially helpful to parents worried about their kids traveling to and from school, or firms with employees on the road. However, depending on the circumstances, a hidden GPS tracker may result in criminal charges in Salem Massachusetts.

If you’ve been charged with using a hidden GPS tracker, a criminal defense lawyer is your best bet at receiving a favorable outcome. Contact the Law Offices of Paul R. Moraski today. We will guide you through the entire process, ensure your rights are respected and hopefully get you a favorable ruling.

When is it Legal to Use a GPS Tracker?

In certain circumstances, it’s entirely within your rights to use a GPS tracker. You won’t be prosecuted if:

  •       You own the asset being tracked, and it might be taken without your permission.
  •       The child or children being tracked are under 18 years old.
  •       Either you or your organization owns the vehicle or asset being tracked.
  •       You’re tracking a vehicle with the intent of repossession in case a debtor defaults on a loan. 

When is it illegal?

Here’s where things get interesting. If you do not own the vehicle, using a hidden GPS tracker to monitor it is illegal. You’re also not allowed to plant a hidden tracker on your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s car.

In 2016, a Massachusetts resident found a GPS tracker in the underside of his wife’s car, and after filing a report, he found another tracker on his car. After an investigation, the man responsible was found, and investigators say he tracked the couple to at least 17 different locations, including outside Massachusetts.

Prosecutors pursued criminal charges, arguing that the “defendant intended to target the victim with the harassing conduct of speech, or a series of acts.”

However, lower courts typically don’t see it from the prosecutors’ perspective. According to the defendant’s criminal defense lawyers, “the placement of a GPS device has not been prescribed by statute and therefore does not constitute harassment,” and a District Court agreed and dismissed the case. 

The defendant argued that his alleged conduct did not satisfy the elements of the criminal harassment statute. You may be found guilty of harassment if:

  •       You knowingly engage in a pattern of conduct, speech, or acts on at least three occasions.
  •       You intend to target the victim each time.
  •       Your conduct seriously alarms the victim.
  •       A reasonable person would have suffered substantial emotional distress from your conduct.
  •       The conduct was committed willfully and maliciously.

The defendant attached a GPS tracking device to the victim’s cars on at least three occasions and tracked their movements. The couple made it clear that the incident has left them emotionally distressed. The husband switched his work schedule from night to day, and his wife has had insomnia since.

Under these conditions, the defendant’s actions certainly constitute harassment, and the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled it as such in a precedent-setting ruling.

The law regarding GPS tracking is fluid, and changes with advancements in technology, and its application is often dependent on unique circumstances. You might not be able to navigate it on your own, but an experienced criminal defense lawyer definitely can. Contact the law Offices of Paul R. Moraski at (978) 397-0011 today for a free consultation.