Is It Against the Law to Track a Car?

September 19, 2022 - 6:22 am - 4 min read
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What is Car Tracking?

Car tracking is the process of using a tracking device to monitor the location and movement of a vehicle. The tracking device is usually installed in the car and transmits real-time data to a receiver, which can be a computer or a smartphone. The data collected by the tracking device can include the car’s exact location, speed, direction of travel, and other details like the fuel level.

Is it Legal to Track a Car?

The legality of car tracking depends on the purpose of the tracking. If the owner of the vehicle consents to the tracking and the purpose is legitimate, then it is legal. For example, a courier company can legally track its delivery vehicles to ensure that they are on the right route and are not being misused by the drivers. Also, some car insurance companies offer discounts to drivers who agree to have their cars tracked as part of a telematics policy.

However, if someone is tracking a car without the owner’s knowledge or consent, then it is usually illegal. This is considered to be an invasion of privacy and can result in criminal charges. Moreover, tracking someone’s car without their consent can lead to civil liability for damages if the person being tracked can prove that they suffered harm as a result of the tracking.

When is Tracking a Car Legal?

There are several situations when it is legal to track a car, provided that the owner consents to the tracking:

1. Parental Control

Parents can use car tracking devices to monitor the movements of their teenage children who have just started driving. This is to ensure that the teens do not put themselves or others in danger by speeding or driving recklessly.

2. Fleet Tracking

Companies can install tracking devices in their fleet of vehicles to monitor their usage, fuel consumption, and maintenance needs. This can help the company to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

3. Car Theft Recovery

Law enforcement agencies can track stolen vehicles using GPS tracking devices. This is legal as long as the police obtain a warrant or have probable cause to believe that the car is stolen.

4. Employee Monitoring

Employers can use car tracking devices to monitor the movements of their employees who drive company vehicles. This is legal as long as the employees are informed of the tracking and the purpose of the monitoring.

When is Tracking a Car Illegal?

Tracking a car without the owner’s knowledge or consent is usually illegal, but there are some exceptions. For example, a spouse can legally track their partner’s car if they suspect infidelity. However, this is only legal if the spouse has the legal right to use the car and to install tracking devices on it.

Moreover, hacking into someone’s car tracking device or intercepting the data transmitted by the device is illegal. This is considered to be a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which prohibits unauthorized access to a computer system or a network.

The Penalties for Illegally Tracking a Car

The penalties for illegally tracking a car can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the severity of the offense. In general, the penalties can include fines, damages, and even imprisonment.

For example, in California, the unauthorized installation of a tracking device on a car is a misdemeanor offense that can result in a fine of up to $2,500 and/or imprisonment for up to one year. If the tracking results in the victim suffering emotional distress, then the offender can be liable for damages under the tort law.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the legality of tracking a car depends on the purpose of the tracking and the consent of the owner. If the purpose is legitimate, such as for parental control or fleet tracking, and the owner consents to the tracking, then it is legal. However, if someone tracks a car without the owner’s knowledge or consent, then it is usually illegal and can result in criminal charges and civil liability for damages. Therefore, it is important to understand the laws and regulations regarding car tracking before using a tracking device.

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