Lets assume, for a moment, that you suspect your spouse is cheating on you. You lay awake at night wondering about all those strange texts that keep beeping, about where they have been when they’re late, or why after all these years the sex just isn’t as hot as it once was, if you’re even having it.
So you start with a Google search.
You quickly discover there are private investigators who will put a discreet tracking device on your spouse’s car and who, for a reasonable fee, will also conduct surveillance on them.
Great idea – but is it legal? The answer, like most things in law, is: It depends.
This article will address this very issue and explain how and when the use of tracking devices becomes a crime that can be punished with jail time. For legitimate and lawful uses of GPS trackers for surveillance, we will be speaking with private investigator Rich Allen, of McGarry and Associates, a Fort Lauderdale private investigations firm.
Corruption in Hallandale Beach, Florida:
Using GPS Trackers for Political Gain
You need to remember something – I am just a lawyer. People hire me to defend them, to fight for them, to be their voice, and to counsel them on the law. In this case, I was hired to represent Commissioner Michele Lazarow of the Hallandale Beach City Commission, who is one of three victims of illegal surveillance using unlawfully placed GPS trackers.
All the problems begin with the fractured state of politics in the Hallandale Beach City Commission (which is comprised of the mayor, the vice mayor, who is also a commissioner, and three other commissioners).
On one political side is the mayor and vice mayor (who is up for re-election). On the other is Commissioner Keith London and Commissioner Michele Lazarow (also up for re-election). In the middle, is candidate Anabelle Taub who is running against the vice mayor for his city commission seat. As is natural in any political setting, these groups of people oppose each other and have very different visions of where their city should be headed.
However, putting most of the animosity aside, there are four glaring facts that show GPS trackers were illegally used in this case:
FACT #1: The mayor is running around town spreading false rumors that her political opponents, Commissioner London and Commissioner Lazarow, are having an affair and acting immorally.
FACT #2: Simultaneously, hate ads against Commissioner Lazarow (who is up for re-election) that depict covert surveillance footage of her walking next to Commissioner London and sitting in a car with him have aired on television. The point of the hate ad is to mislead the public by showing video of the two together – because naturally, the public is stupid and standing next to someone must mean you are having sex with them and doing illegal things.
FACT #3: During the same time frame as the hate ad, Commissioner London, Commissioner Lazarow, and candidate Anabelle Taub each found GPS tracking devices illegally attached to the undercarriage of their personal vehicles. Commissioner London and candidate Anabelle Taub also caught men following them. Commissioner London was able to get cell phone video of the man and his license plate. Research into the license plate provided his name. Further research established he is a private investigator.
FACT #4: Research into the finance reports filed by the mayor, vice mayor, and two political actions committees revealed that some of the people and corporations who contributed to the mayor and vice mayor’s campaigns for re-election are the same people and corporations who funded a political action committee that funded a second political action committee responsible for publishing the hate ad.
Read that last part again. It gets complicated – purposefully.
Like organized crime, drug trafficking, and money laundering – hateful politics are never handled directly because no one wants their name overtly associated with such negativity. By using layers of separation with political action committees funded by other political actions committees funded by community organizations, parent companies no one has heard of, and acronyms of real corporate names, it is purposefully challenging to figure out who is really behind something.
Plus, there is built in deniability – when all you did was donate money to an entity that donated to another entity that donated to the end party responsible, no one can prove you are personally involved. In the worst case scenario you can feign outrage at the mere suggestion you were involved.
Except for one thing – it is not believable that any person or corporation would donate massive sums of money (as is the case here) without knowing how that money is being spent.
The one thing about money, is nobody gives it away for free.
Additionally, big time donors don’t try to curry the favor of a politician by spending large sums of money on hate ads that the politican despises or objects to. On some level, they spend the money because they know the benefiting politican approves of it – even if that approval was never verbalized or recorded in a voicemail.
Why else have the mayor and the vice mayor failed to publically condemn the illegal GPS tracking and the hate ads? Why does the only condemnation they offer come in the form of more personal attacks on Lazarow, London, and Taub.
SO – like I have said before, it must all be a big coincidence that the mayor is spreading affair rumors while hate ads depicting undercover surveillance video of London and Lazarow are aired by her supporters during the same exact time frame Commissioner London, Commissioner Lazarow, and candidate Anabelle Taub are being followed by private investigators and GPS tracking devices are unlawfully placed on their cars.
Thus, in case it isn’t obvious to you yet – you have to wonder, how did the people who made the hate ad get the undercover video? How did they know where and when Commissioner London and Commissioner Lazarow would be together in the same place at the same time?
Did they get lucky and quickly snap footage during a chance encounter somewhere? Or does the existence of GPS trackers tell us that they used illegal means to track the whereabouts of Commissioner Lazarow and Commissioner London?
I will let you decide.
Is it illegal to put a tracker on someone’s car?
Rich Allen is a retired detective with over 35 years of experience. In his career, both as a law enforcement officer and as a private investigator, Mr. Allen has made ample use of GPS trackers as well as surveillance.
He tell us the applications of GPS tracking devices are many – from following cheating spouses, to tracking delivery trucks for business owners, or keeping an eye on where the kids are late at night. His clientele has asked for it all.
Mr. Allen also tells us he has clients he has to turn away – the ones who ask him to use GPS trackers for illicit and unlawful purposes.
I can only imagine what that might entail – my guess is it includes husbands who want to track their wive’s boyfriends, business owners who want to track their partners, and people hell bent on revenge, blackmail, or political gain.
So, the question remains: When is it illegal to use a GPS tracker to follow someone?
The answer depends on the circumstances. In the summer of 2015, a new Florida law came into effect that makes it a CRIME to place GPS trackers on someone’s property (including a car) without consent.
Pursuant to Fl. Stat. §934.425(2), “…a person may not knowingly install a tracking device or tracking application on another person’s property without the other person’s consent.” Additionally, Fl. Stat. §934.425(5), makes it a criminal offense to violate this rule.
However, there are limited exceptions where placing a tracker without a person’s consent is permissible. They are as follows:
- Police: When a law enforcement officer lawfully uses a tracker as part of a criminal investigation;
- Parents: When a parent or legal guardian of a minor installs a tracker on the minor’s property (however, see the statute for situations where mom and dad are either separated/divorced and in disagreement about the tracker);
- Caregivers: When a caregiver for an elderly or disabled adult installs a tracker after the elderly or disabled adult’s treating physician certifies that the use of the tracker is necessary to ensure the safety of that person;
- Businesses: When a person acts in good faith on behalf of a business for a legitimate business purpose. However this exception does not apply to a private investigator.
- Car Owners: When someone puts a tracker on a motor vehicle they own or lease, provided they remove the tracker when they get rid of the vehicle or the new owner consents in writing.
The law is pretty straight forward – failure to fall within one of these specific exceptions means use of a GPS tracker is illegal in Florida unless you have written consent by the person being tracked.
Back to Corruption in Hallandale Beach
SO – you gotta wonder – why on Earth was a GPS tracker placed on the cars of Commissioner Michele Lazarow, Commissioner Keith London, and candidate for city commission Anabelle Taub’s cars? Is there any scenario where placement of these GPS trackers falls within one of the enumerated exceptions – as would necessarily be the case since neither Commissioner Lazarow, Commissioner London, nor candidate Anabelle Taub ever consented to being tracked?
Rich Allen has had a chance to look at the photos of these trackers and he is 100% certain that they are not police trackers. Rather, they are consistent with the cheapo trackers some low level private investigators use. Having looked at them myself, I agree.
Parent, Elderly, and Disabled Adult Exception:
Neither Commissioner Lazarow, Commissioner London, nor Ababelle Taub are minors, elderly, or disabled adults. So that eliminates that exception.
Business Use Exception:
Well, this exception doesn’t apply either because the GPS trackers at issue were placed on their privately owned vehicles. These were not city issued vehicles or business owned vehicles. As such, this exception does not apply.
Vehicle Owner Exception:
The vehicles in question are owned only by Commissioner Lazarow, Commissioner London, and Anabelle Taub – and they did not give any other person or entity permission to place a GPS tracker on their cars. Therefore, this exception does not apply either.
WE HAVE RUN OUT OF EXCEPTIONS.
In the absence of consent or an applicable exception, the surreptitious placement of these GPS trackers was a crime (actually three crimes). Plain and simple.
What You Can Do
If you have been a victim of illegal tracking in Florida, like Commissioner Lazarow, Commissioner London, or candidate for public office Anabelle Taub, there are a number of legal remedies you may seek. First of all, a forensic analysis of the tracker will trace it back to a private company and an account linked to a person or a business. This may reveal who is responsible for unlawfully invading your privacy. Knowing who is responsible will give you a potential defendant to sue in court for injunctive relief and damages.
However, if the cast of characters in your case are smart-ish, they will have used layers of third parties to do their dirty work. This may make identifying a defendant tricky.
Yet even in such instances, the lack of smoking gun does not mean those responsible can’t be smoked out. The case of Hallandale Beach politics is a great example. Without pointing fingers, everyone in the community knows who is responsible… all you have to do is follow the money and paper trails.
It is also worth mentioning that not only can you go after the account holder, but their employer may also be liable if the invasion of privacy was committed during the course of their work.
You may also report the matter to law enforcement for criminal prosecution.
In the Hallandale Beach case, the matter was quickly reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (a statewide law enforcement agency). The GPS trackers were handed over to them and a sworn statement about what happened was provided.
The bottom line is this – if you are the victim of illegal surveillance, the law is on your side. You should fight back, out your attackers, and let the dust settle where it may.
Questions? Comments? Contact us!
Have a question or comment about GPS trackers and illegal surveillance? Contact us! We offer a free initial consultation.
Firm Website: briansilberlaw.com