Are you concerned that your spouse may be having an affair? Do you want to find out your spouse’s location when he or she is not with you? While you may have the foregoing concerns, you should definitely think twice before using a GPS system or tracking device to ascertain your spouse’s whereabouts.
While the case of Villanova v. Innovative Investigations, Inc., 420 N.J. Super. 353 (App. Div. 2011) ruled that the placement of a GPS device in one of the family vehicles to assist in tracking a spouse’s whereabouts, while the parties were engaged in divorce proceedings, was not a per se invasion of privacy, a twist of the facts could lead to an opposite result. In Villanova, there was no evidence that the unsuspecting spouse drove the vehicle into a private or secluded location that was out of public view and in which the spouse had a legitimate expectation of privacy. In addition, the vehicle in which the GPS device was placed in Villanova was the family vehicle which was jointly owned by the parties and the auto insurance for the vehicle was paid from the parties’ joint account. Hence, if the GPS device is placed on a vehicle and the vehicle travels into a private or secluded location and/or if the vehicle is someone’s personal vehicle titled separately in that individual’s name, etc., there could very well be an invasion of privacy.
The placement of a GPS device on an individual’s vehicle may qualify as stalking. The New Jersey stalking statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10(a)(1) was recently expanded to cover stalking by means of technology such as the use of GPS devices, as recognized by the State of New Jersey v. Gandhi, 201 N.J. 161 (2010). Additionally, with respect to a Restraining Order, a person’s actions in placing a GPS tracking device on the car of another will be considered as prior history in the domestic violence context. In other words, beware and think before you act.