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Is It Illegal To Put a GPS Tracker On Someone’s Car In Texas

Is GPS Tracking Legal In Texas

Everything You Need To Know About GPS Tracking Laws In Texas

GPS car tracking devices are utilized for a number of applications by businesses and consumers throughout Texas. Maybe a person in San Antonio has a personal need to monitor his wife without her knowing based on his gut-feeling she is cheating. Or maybe a parent in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is concerned their teenager is driving recklessly so they want to track their son without him knowing. The reality is a criminal investigation, ugly Texas divorce, or nasty child custody case all might be reasons a private citizen would might turn to electronic surveillance. Regardless of the reason why a business or individual has a need to put a tracking device on someone’s car in Texas, the only question that matters is whether or not placing a GPS tracker on a vehicle is legal in Texas. In an effort to provide education regarding GPS tracking laws in Texas, our GPS experts created this article to give people some very basic information about if it is legal to put a GPS tracker on someone’s vehicle in Texas!

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Is It Legal To Put a Tracking Device On Someone’s Car In Texas?

Texas Law Regarding Unlawful Installation Of Tracking

One of the more popular questions our GPS tracking experts get asked is if it is illegal to put a GPS tracker on someone’s car in Texas, and the answer is: Yes and No. For example, if a person buys a tracking device and hides the tracker inside a car that is not owned by them then yes that would be illegal. In fact, it would be a misdemeanor in the great state of Texas. However, when it comes to hiding a GPS car tracker on someone’s vehicle in Texas there are multiple legal loopholes or shades of grey with the law. Here are a few examples of this:

  • In Texas, a person can place a car GPS tracker inside or outside of any automobile they own.
  • Texas businesses can use car tracking devices on company-owned vehicles.
  • You can legally hide a tracking device on a car you do not own only if 1) the GPS tracker is equipped to the outside of the vehicle, and 2) the car is parked on public property when the tracking device is placed under the car. 
  • It is illegal to hide a GPS tracker inside a car you do not own as it is considered private property.
  • If a car is parked on private property you cannot legally place a GPS tracker under the vehicle. You must wait until the vehicle is parked in public.

Unlawful Installation of GPS trackers is defined in Chapter 16.06 of the Texas Penal Code as follows:

(b) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly installs an electronic or mechanical tracking device on a motor vehicle owned or leased by another person.

Basically, it is a crime to put a hidden GPS tracker inside a car that does not belong to you. Section 16.06(a)(2) says that “motor vehicle” has the meaning assigned by Section 501.002, Transportation Code.

What Is The Punishment For Using A GPS Tracker Illegally In Texas?

Illegal use of a vehicle tracking system is a Class A Misdemeanor in the state of Texas. Class A Misdemeanors are punishable by a fine (not exceeding $4,000). If you are found guilty of illegally placing a GPS tracker on someone’s car in Texas it is important that you consult a criminal attorney. The reason is that even if you already pleaded guilty, a criminal defense attorney will work on your behalf to obtain the lowest possible sentence. 

Under Texas law, a law enforcement agency who reasonably believed a person was involved in some form of criminal activity (wiretap act) is authorized to install a GPS device as long as they first obtain a warrant. The unlawful installation of a tracking system on the vehicle of a private citizen could lead to a criminal investigation or pursuant to electronic communication.  

Arguing Effective Consent From Owner or Lessee Of Vehicle In Texas

Effective Consent basically means you received explicit consent or implied consent. If that sounds a little confusing let us try to break down that legal language. Effective consent means you directly informed the vehicle owner you would place a tracker on their car. For example, you took the vehicle to an auto mechanic and asked them to equip a GPS tracker to the car, you have given them your express consent. Keep in mind that your criminal defense attorney will have to argue this defense.

On the other hand, effective consent many times can be implied. An example of this would be if a parent “leased” a car to their teen driver, and used a tracking device for safety The minor might not have provided express consent, but because they are still a minor (under control of their parents) the consent is assumed.

GPS Tracking Employees Texas

Businesses with company vehicles that are considering using GPS technology to secretly track a vehicle should reach out to a business attorney in Texas and an attorney in the area of intent to get the most accurate info on GPS tracking laws in Texas. It is important to know that legislation constantly changes in regards to GPS tracking laws in Texas. Therefore, you should speak with a legal professional before investing in a tracking device to receive the appropriate legal use of any vehicle surveillance products. Therefore, this post on GPS tracking laws in Texas is not considered legal advice.

Related Article: GPS tracking laws in Calfornia

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