Oh, the Relentless March of Technology! In a previous article, I wrote about Florida’s brand new Revenge Porn Statute. Another recent piece of legislation is F.S.S. 934.425, which addresses the illegal use of electronic tracking devices.
Four months ago, my Cyber Crimes detectives and I examined a GPS tracker that a victim said she found underneath her vehicle. The suspect was her jealous soon-to-be-ex-husband. She believed that he surreptitiously place it on the underside of her car’s frame rail to “spy on her.” I will not discuss why here, but the facts and circumstances of the case precluded criminal charges, the new legislation notwithstanding.
At the time of our report, Florida’s laws did not specifically address the use of trackers. Recognizing this vulnerability to citizens’ privacy, the Legislature prohibited GPS tracking under certain circumstances. Violation of the chapter is a second degree misdemeanor.
Florida’s new law makes it remain legal for a spouse to track their loved one, parents to place a GPS device in their child’s backpack, or caregivers of the elderly to electronically follow them for safety. But the statute must be read closely, because there are very specific conditions that must not be broken in order to keep the GPS-placing party out of a county jail.
For instance, a parent may only track his or her child if he/she is legally married to, and living with, his/her spouse and at least one parent is aware of the device; if the parent or legal guardian has sole custody or is the sole surviving parent; or if the parents are divorced, separated, or living apart, and both parents consent to the action.
Similar protections exist for tracking the elderly or even if a person has a GPS locator on his own vehicle. Sorry PI’s, but the law does not support certain device use by private investigators. Law enforcement officers may still use the technology, but we all know that it is restricted to use by consent, on department equipment, or by way of a search warrant signed by a judge.
I strongly recommend that you review the legislation, which took effect October 1, 2015, as you should read all laws you endeavor to enforce. I have not discussed all of FSS 934.425’s implications and my introduction does not constitute legal training or advice.
This is yet another example of advances in our everyday lives that open us up to being victimized by those with evil intent. I am not in favor of every aspect of our collective existences being governed by legislative ink, but personal privacy rights must be staunchly defended.