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New Jersey Appellate Courts Stay Up With Technology

You may know that police in New Jersey are able to use GPS tracking devices to keep track of the movements of vehicles without the vehicle owners’ knowledge or consent. They are no longer alone in that endeavor — now some private citizens can do so, as well. A New Jersey appellate court ruled recently that installing a tracking device on a spouse’s vehicle during a divorce is not an invasion of privacy.

The plaintiff in the underlying action was a Gloucester County Sheriff’s Officer. He filed an invasion of privacy suit upon discovering his wife, prior to filing divorce, hired a private detective to spy on him in 2007.

When the woman wanted to know what her husband was up to, the detective agency recommended that the wife install a GPS tracking device on her husband’s vehicle. The GPS tracking device tracked him for 40 days.

New Jersey state law prohibits intrusion into private places. It was under that law that the man filed his civil claim against his ex-wife. He also filed suit against the private investigation firm.

A person is subject to liability for invasion of privacy if they intentionally intrude, physically or otherwise, on the solitude or seclusion of another person in a way that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.

The private investigator’s attorneys argued to the Court that the GPS tracked the complaining husband on public roads, and he had no expectation of privacy there. The appellate court agreed. Because the husband did not drive the vehicle to a secluded location or place where he had a reasonable expectation of privacy, his privacy was not invaded by the placement of the GPS tracking device without his knowledge.

Source: The Newspaper, “New Jersey: Court Approves Private GPS Spying,” July 12, 2011