Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak, PLC
Full-Service Lawyers In Monroe, Serving Clients Throughout Michigan
Call Us Today

Can You Put A GPS Tracking Device On A Motor Vehicle In Michigan?

BlogImage18.jpg

There are many legitimate reasons why someone would want to track the whereabouts of a motor vehicle. A concerned husband may be suspicious that his wife is cheating on him so he is tracking whether the vehicle is going to an out-of-town hotel. A parent may have teenagers who are beginning to drive on their own and want to ensure they are following the rules or staying in the boundaries. Perhaps a civil defense attorney is tracking a personal injury plaintiff to see if the locations they are going to are consistent with the injuries they claim to have sustained. Given the advances in technologies, a small GPS device can be covertly installed and tracked on a smartphone. However, unless you meet a statutory exception, putting a tracking device on a motor vehicle is a criminal offense in Michigan that can lead to fines, probation and even jail time.

“Tracking device” means any electronic device that is designed or intended to be used to track the location of a motor vehicle regardless of whether that information is recorded. MCL 750.539l(5)(f). This can be a GPS and satellite tracker, radio tracker, or radio frequency identifier (RFID). These devices are usually tiny and very difficult to detect. However, if they are discovered, you can expect the tracked person to be angry and want to seek answers or obtain justice.

MCL 750.539l(1) prohibits anyone from doing the following:

  • (a) Installs or places a tracking device, or causes a tracking device to be installed or placed, in or on a motor vehicle without the knowledge and consent of the owner of that motor vehicle or, if the motor vehicle is leased, the lessee of that motor vehicle.
  • (b) Tracks the location of a motor vehicle with a tracking device without the knowledge and consent of either the owner or the authorized operator of that motor vehicle or, if the motor vehicle is leased, either the lessee or the authorized operator of that motor vehicle.
  • (c) While being the restrained party under a protective order, tracks the location of a motor vehicle operated or occupied by an individual protected under that order with a tracking device.
  • (d) While on probation or parole for an assaultive crime or domestic violence, tracks the location of a motor vehicle operated or occupied by a victim of that crime or by a family member of the victim of that crime without the knowledge and consent of that victim or family member.

Any person who unlawfully places a tracking device on a motor vehicle is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1,000.00 and/or up to one year in prison. In addition, a person who illegally installs or uses a tracking device who installs or uses a tracking device is liable for all damages incurred by the owner or lessee of the motor vehicle caused by the installation or use of the tracking device.

However, this statute does NOT prohibit any of the following:

  • The installation or use of any device that provides vehicle tracking for purposes of providing mechanical, operational, directional, navigation, weather, or traffic information to the operator of the vehicle (e.g. OnStar). MCL 750.539l(2)(a).
  • The installation or use of any device for providing emergency assistance to the operator or passengers of the vehicle under the terms and conditions of a subscription service, including any trial period of that subscription service. MCL 750.539l(2)(b).
  • The installation or use of any device for providing missing vehicle assistance for the benefit of the owner or operator of the vehicle. MCL 750.539l(2)(c).
  • The installation or use of any device to provide diagnostic services regarding the mechanical operation of a vehicle under the terms and conditions of a subscription service, including any trial period of the subscription service. MCL 750.539l(2)(d).
  • The installation or use of any device or service that provides the lessee of the vehicle with clear notice that the vehicle may be tracked. For a lessor who installs a tracking device subsequent to the original vehicle manufacture, the notice shall be provided in writing with an acknowledgment signed by the lessee, regardless of whether the tracking device is original equipment, a retrofit, or an aftermarket product. The requirement for written acknowledgment placed upon the lessor is not imposed upon the manufacturer of the tracking device or the manufacturer of the vehicle. MCL 750.539l(2)(e).
  • The installation or use of any tracking device by the parent or guardian of a minor on any vehicle owned or leased by that parent or guardian or the minor, and operated by the minor. MCL 750.539l(2)(f).
  • The installation or use of a tracking device by a police officer while lawfully performing his or her duties as a police officer. MCL 750.539l(2)(g).
  • The installation or use of a tracking device by a court officer appointed to serve civil process upon a defendant, while lawfully performing his or her duties as a court officer. MCL 750.539l(2)(h).
  • The installation or use of a tracking device by a person lawfully performing his or her duties as a bail agent or as an employee or contractor of that bail agent lawfully performing his or her duties as an employee or contractor of a bail agent. MCL 750.539l(2)(i). However, a bail agent or his employee or contractor who installs or uses a tracking device is liable for all damages incurred by the owner or lessee of the motor vehicle caused by the installation or use of the tracking device. MCL 750.539l(4).

A professional investigator licensed by the State of Michigan may also install or use a tracking device in the course of performing his or her lawful duties. MCL 750.539l(2)(j). However, the professional investigator is limited to a tracking device to carry out the following:

  • (i) Securing evidence to be used before a court, board, officer, or investigating committee.
  • (ii) Crimes or wrongs done, threatened, or suspected against the United States or a state or territory of the United States or any other person or legal entity.
  • (iii) Locating an individual known to be a fugitive from justice.
  • (iv) Locating lost or stolen property or other assets that have been awarded by the court.

However, the professional investigator loses immunity if either of the following applies:

  • The professional investigator or the employee of the professional investigator is working on behalf of a client who is the restrained party under a protective order. MCL 750.539l(3)(a).
  • The professional investigator or the employee of the professional investigator knows or has reason to know that the person seeking his or her investigative services, including the installation or use of a tracking device, is doing so to aid in the commission of a crime or wrong. MCL 750.539l(3)(b).

If a spouse intends to track the other spouse to detect adultery (and the vehicle is solely titled to the other spouse’s name), then that spouse is prohibited from installing a tracking device on his or her own accord. However, he or she can seek the services of a licensed professional investigator to do it for him in anticipation of possible divorce proceedings. However, if the spouse instead hires an UNLICENSED investigator, then they both can be subject to criminal liability.

If you or a loved one is charged with illegal using a tracking device on a motor vehicle or any other crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner. When you need skilled legal representation, do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC today.

FindLaw Network

office

seal-for-90103327