Monday, August 24, 2009

Turning the Tables on Abusive GPS tracking

Recently the issue came up-how should a person react if they believe they are being GPS tracked and the police won't help them?

Because of different laws in different states I can not give any advice on this. I am only licensed in Wisconsin. Please refer to all disclaimers below. The below is only a method to perhaps catch a GPS tracker. Consult an attorney before taking any actions in your jurisdiction.

Someone who is misusing GPS information to create fear or discomfort in a person is at one disadvantage - they must disclose that they know information to the victim, either by "showing up" at the the location the victim is at OR disclosing by voice or email to the victim.

I will use the term GPS misuser (I avoid the word "stalker" as 1) it has a specific legal meaning in most states, and 2) many legitimate searches for information are incorrectly characterized as "stalking." ) GPS misusers walk a fine line: They want the victim to assume the GPS misuser has super powers of observation and ability to control the victim's actions; at the same time, they want to characterize GPS tracked meetings as "merely coincidental" and "occurring by chance." Therefore, the key to disclosing GPS tracking abuse (without the actual GPS itself) would be to document the lack of coincidence, and the improbability of repeated "chance" meetings, and/or the repeated possession of knowledge of very recent otherwise unattainable public movements in close time proximity to those movements. While documenting repeated circumstances of the above does not confirm abusive GPS tracking, it is sufficient to raise the question-How can the alleged GPS abuser explain his or her repeated timely appearances and/or possession and communication of knowledge of very recent movements? If the question is being asked by law enforcement, it is a serious question indeed.

So, if I believed someone was following me based on GPS evidence I would proceed as follows:
First, I would search my car for the GPS tracking device. There was a case in Wisconsin where the person had a mechanic search her car, came up with the device, and then police got involved and contacted the company which made the device. Then the company released all its records and the individual who paid for the GPS. The GPS tracks provided evidence against the alleged stalker. This case is cited in my Wisconsin Lawyer article (see links to the left.)

If I couldn't find the actual GPS unit (and maybe even if I could), I would:
1. Start tracking myself with GPS evidence, through a third party (that is, over the internet) that can produce an admissible record of my locations.
2. Carefully documenting the following by having a friend videotaping it, I would - ask a second friend to chose a random location for me to drive to out the yellow pages. With the friend, drive to the random location (again, videotaping the drive and documenting the time.)
3. Enter the location (presumably some kind of public business) with the friend videotaping the situation, hopefully in such a manner that is inconspicuous.
4. Tape any evidence that the suspected GPS tracker is at the "random" location.
5. Finally, again carefully videotaping the travel home, documenting times (perhaps using a GPS for time references, because of its accuracy, perhaps even occasionally showing the GPS on camera to establish time sequences) return to wherever I get my email. If there is an email from the alleged GPS tracker that referenced the "random" location, both document it on video (showing the time frame of the email) and print it.

I would repeat all these steps several times. I would probably use a private investigator to document the evidence.

Then I would go back to the police with
-the GPS tracking evidence (with a link to the third party's site, I wouldn't download it myself.)
-the videotaped evidence
-the prints of the emails.

What I would be trying to do is rule out "coincidental meeting." The randomness of the location, paired with repeatedly the suspected GPS tracker, would start to rule out coincidence beyond any belief. Any email references to the meeting would show a pattern of what could be "stalking" behavior.

If local police did nothing, I would go to the Sheriff's Dept. or the State Police with the same evidence.

Finally, if the police were co-operating, I would arrange for them to be a pre-arranged location, drive to that location, and have them observe the GPS tracker at that site (undercover, of course.)

You should also be aware there was a "flipped" plot on Law & Order-Criminal Intent (on NBC, if I recall correctly), where the supposed stalking victim would GPS track her former lover who was under a restraining order. The supposed victim would go to the location the former lover was (because she was tracking him) and complain to the police that he was stalking her. I believe her goal was revenge. I don't recall the resolution. I do recall the "supposed victim" got caught. Criminal Intent did get it right, wherever GPS creates a track, if you are using it for the improper or illegal purposes, that track can "turn the tables" and be used as evidence against you.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Implied Consent for GPS Tracking evidence?

The government already controls almost every aspect of every vehicle's manufacturing, design, fueling, operation (including all traffic laws), and regulates not only the sale of vehicles, but titling and licensing of both the vehicles themselves and those who would legally operate those vehicles. While we are free (with many limitations) to drive our vehicles where we please, the government also limits what condition licensed drivers can be in to legally drive.

To this end, most states have law prohibiting operation while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. Police test the driver's sobriety with devices to detect alcohol. When first introduced, some drivers thought they'd foil the system with a "you can't make me" response of refusing the test until the alcohol cleared their system.

Legislatures responded with implied consent laws: If you drive a vehicle, you implicitly give your consent to testing- that is, if you don't consent, you loose your license on the spot.

Now that states like New York have found warrentless GPS tracking unconstitutional under their own state's constitution (the subject of an upcoming post) is the New York and other legislatures hamstrung? I don't believe so. GPS tracking evidence would be admissible in any state if the vehicle driver consents to the tracking in advance. How can he or she do this?

If the legislature requires "implied consent" to GPS tracking, and automatic waiver of objections to GPS created evidence while operating a motor vehicle as a condition of getting a license, there ceases to be any constitutional issue for any court to rule on.