GLOUCESTER COUNTY NJ — Beware all you cheating husbands and wives. The use of a GPS device to track your whereabouts is not an invasion of privacy in New Jersey, a state appellate court panel ruled today. (Sarasota private investigator Bill Warner seen above with a GPS tracker).
Based on the battle of a divorcing Gloucester County couple, the decision helps clarify the rules governing a technology increasingly employed by suspicious spouses — many of whom hire private investigators.
“For the appellate division to say that it’s not an invasion of privacy is a wonderful thing for the private investigation business,” said Lisa Reed, owner of LSR Investigations in Flemington. “It’s been something we’ve been haggling over for some period of time.”
No state law governs the use of GPS tracking devices, and the ruling, which does not affect police officers, is the first to address the issue, said Jimmie Mesis, past president of the New Jersey Licensed Private Investigators Association.
“We only use it when we are sure we have the appropriate conditions,’’ Reed said, noting that investigators make sure GPS devises are installed in cars on public streets and not private areas, and that the spouse must have some legal or financial connection to the car (Co-owner co-registration)
The court ruled in the case of Kenneth Villanova, a Gloucester County sheriff’s officer who sued private investigator Richard Leonard of Innovative Investigations Inc., hired by Villanova’s now ex-wife in 2007.
After Villanova evaded Leonard, who was following him, on several occassions, he recommended that Villanova’s wife buy a GPS tracking device. She put it in the glove compartment of the GMC Yukon-Denali, which they both owned but was primarily driven by Villanova, the court papers said. It was in place, undetected, from July 14 to Aug. 24, 2007.
Two weeks into the GPS tracking, Leonard found Villanova leaving a driveway in his car with a woman who was not his wife, the decision said. Villanova claimed the tracking device invaded his privacy and caused him ”substantial and permanent emotional distress,” though the appellate judges noted he sought no medical treatment or advice.
Appellate Judge Joseph Lisa, Jack Sabatino and Carmen Alvarez said Villanova had no right to expect privacy because the GPS tracked his movements on public streets. “There is no direct evidence in this record to establish that during the approximately 40 days the GPS was in the … glove compartment the device captured a movement of plaintiff into a secluded location that was not in public view, and, if so, that such information was passed along by Mrs. Villanova to (Leonard),” Lisa wrote.
GPS doesn’t just track cheating spouses. Private investigators use it to keep tabs on the subjects of insurance fraud investigations, background checks and child custody cases, Mesis said. “The tracker’s not doing anything different than what a person in a car would be doing,” he said.
Modern Day Private Detective;…..Many people today still have misguided thoughts and perceptions of a modern Private Investigator or Detective. Some still believe we creep about in dark alleys spying on unsuspecting people. It couldn’t’ be any further from the truth.
Today, a modern Private Investigator will spend many hours leaning over a desk staring at a computer screen, with the constant introduction of social networking sites like Facebook, databases, and on-line facilities that allow us to trace people purely from their activity while on-line (this is a big deal today).
GPS TRACKING; GPS Tracking devices come in many shapes and sizes to suit their desired application, some are as small as a matchbox, whilst others are designed specifically to be hard wired into a commercial vehicle for example. Unlike data loggers (which, record a number of points a tracker has traveled over time and then downloaded onto a PC) GPS Trackers use triangular satellite navigation.
This is in “real time” allowing you or us to locate the unit or vehicle it is attached to at any given time within just a few feet. There are many different applications as you can imagine and it is legal for the vehcile owner to put such a tracking device on their own vehicle, (if a wife wanted to see where her husband was during the day).
Bill Warner Sarasota private investigator Sex, Crime, Cheaters and Terrorism at www.wbipi.com