New Jersey Courts allow GPS tracking of Cheating Spouse

Catching a cheating spouse may be easier than ever. Last week a New Jersey appeals court ruled in Villanova v. Innovative Investigations, Inc. that a wife had the legal right to track her husband’s physical location using his GPS. The court also ruled that this was not a violation of the spouse’s right to privacy.

The wife, who suspected her husband was having an affair, installed tracking technology on the family’s car. The husband later filed suit against the investigative firm and its principal claiming they violated his right to privacy.

This practice is apparently not uncommon, New Jersey Attorney Stephen Haller, who represented former governor Jim McGreevey in his recent divorce, agrees, “Technology is present everywhere.”

Haller, however, recommends not relying too heavily on technology but instead hiring a private detective and getting photo evidence. “I can put a GPS in a car and somebody can hire somebody else to drive that car down to the beach while the real infidelity is going on up in the mountains,” said Haller.

For the New Jersey court case, the plaintiff argued that his ex-wife ‘intruded on his solitude’. The New Jersey court specifically reviewed four types of privacy claims allowed under the law: (1) intrusion, (2) public disclosure of private facts, (3) false light, and (4) misappropriation.

To prove intrusion, the husband would have had to prove that the actions were highly offensive to a reasonable person and the intrusion was into a private place. The New Jersey courts rejected the plaintiff’s claims suggesting the following:

There is nothing [in the record] to support an inference that any surveillance of plaintiff extended into private or secluded locations that were out of public view and in which plaintiff had a legitimate expectation of privacy.

Courts will have to fully evaluate the implications of technological advancements allowed by new technology such as GPS tracking system. Some privacy advocates suggest that a GPS tracking system may clash with notions of privacy, given its ability to track a motorist’s movements in a way that could not physically be done before. They also suggest the information gathered from this system could reveal more information, private information, than could be gathered if someone was following you.

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., suggest that using a GPS system without a warrant may be a violation of a person’s Fourth Amendment rights, “The sequence of a person’s movements may reveal more than the individual movements of which it is composed.” The Fourth Amendment secures the right of people to “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Other courts, however, have disagreed with this ruling.

Filing for Divorce

With the advancement of technology, gathering evidence of infidelity may be easier than ever. Whether or not the material will be useful in court may be another matter. If you suspect your spouse is cheating on you, contact a divorce lawyer and find out your rights.

Divorce lawyers can answer your questions and outline the divorce laws of your state. Do not do anything without first understanding whether it is legal or you may find yourself the defendant in a court action.