Friday, January 30, 2009

A Call for Uniform GPS State Regulation

According to wbstv.com (http://www.wsbtv.com/2investigates/18588494/detail.html) Georgia is considering regulating the use of GPS tracking devices. I applaud this action, and encourage all the states to regulate GPS tracking with a Uniform law, like the Uniform Commercial Code. GPS tracking evidence, by its very nature, will tend to travel across state lines through many states. The evidence generate by such a track should be uniformly admitted or excluded, wherever it is generated, and regardless of the place the unit was attached, downloaded or sought to be introduced. We have a blueprint for such regulation-wiretapping laws that exist throughout the United States.

We should keep in mind that 1) what happens in a vehicle on public roadways is "already public." (see Attorney Ganz's article ". . . It's Already Public" to your left.) Second, physically following a vehicle or person, even though difficult, is legal, but dangerous-both the the participants AND to the public who might get in the way.

Accordingly, there is a public interest in GPS tracking, because it keeps those who would physically follow recklessly from even appearing on the roads. Princess Diana died, in part, because of those who wanted to follow her. How many other accidents are cause by those who are following, and those who are trying to evade them? GPS tracking will never cause an accident.

Some argue that GPS tracking will disclose secrets that will cause those harmed to take revenge. I believe those keeping secrets will eventually be found out, either by physical tracking, GPS tracking, or a guilty knowing desire to be exposed. Any of these methods could lead to revenge. However, GPS tracking, in my view, lowers the possibility of a chance discovery that would lead to a crime of passion, or a car chase that would hurt innocent bystanders.

What would a uniform GPS regulation law include? Here's my "wish list":

-Penalty enhancers for stalking with a GPS.

-Criminalizing private third-party tracking for anyone other than a licensed private investigator, law enforcement officer (including corrections officials) or other individual if allowed under court order.
The only problem with this is it would require people to go through private investigators, and many can't afford private investigators. This would create two classes of people, those who can afford to check, and those who can't. One solution to this is to allow tracking by permit-you go to your local police station, they take down the information on your tracking device, and your information, and you get a permit for a certain amount of time. You can renew the permit with "good cause." Tracking without a permit would be a crime. Because the person tracking had already been to the police, he or she is unlikely to take the law into their own hands if the GPS reveals a problem. More likely, that person would use legal means to remedy the problem. Stalkers would definitely not track by permit, because 1) they don't want to have a record of their activities, and 2) they wouldn't want any time limitation on their tracking.

There should be a requirement of some kind of cause for the tracking, that is, some kind of legally recognizable action that could come from the claim. Therefore, a person could track a spouse he or she suspected of infidelity, because he or she could file for divorce based on the GPS track. However, people should not be able total strangers. Furthermore, they should not be able to track boyfriends or girlfriends, because they can't file any legally defined claim based on that status. (Yes, I know about palimony and common law marriage, but I believe a legally recognizable claim would have to be proven before tracking permits were issued, because otherwise someone could claim palimony desires after one date.)

-Allowing courts to order GPS tracking for bond enforcement, child support enforcement, child custody investigations, worker's compensation investigations, or other civil suit with a court order.

-Limiting law enforcement use to specific time periods,which could be extended with a court order with proper reason and cause, and requirements for logging equipment use and time, and requiring specific chains of evidence for admissibility.


-Enacting specific rules of evidence for the admission of GPS tracking, including documentation of attachment procedures, documentation of downloads, availability of the raw data to the opposition, and permanent writing of the GPS track record as soon as practicable.

This is the short list. I'll be adding to it over the next few days.

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