Private investigators in the state of Florida are facing some tough challenges to their surveillance work due to a new state law that goes into effect in October.
On October 1st, Florida Statute 934.425 will be officially implemented which makes it illegal to install a GPS tracking device and software on private property without permission from the property owner.
This anti-tracking law has an exception for people “acting in good faith on behalf of a business entity for a legitimate business purpose.”
The law also exempts any law enforcement professionals who legally use tracking devices or tracking software as part of an official criminal investigation.
However, the law makes no exceptions for Florida’s licensed private investigators.
Anyone charged with violating Florida’s new anti-GPS-tracking law faces second degree misdemeanor charges.
One of the reasons for the law’s creation is a study from the United States Department of Justice which shows that 1 out of 4 stalking incidents involved the use of some type of tracking technology and 1 out of 13 stalking cases made use of GPS trackers.
While this law was meant to target stalkers who use GPS technology to track people, it is also trapping private investigators with it’s restrictive wording.
Florida private investigator Chris Rumbaugh has stated publicly that the way this bill was written will create major problems for private investigators in Florida.
According to the bill’s sponsor, State Representative Larry Metz (R-Yalaha), private investigators were included in the bill’s prohibitions because people with the financial resources to hire a private investigator should not be able to get around the law while other people cannot. Metz said that allowing private investigators to use GPS systems to track people would create two different legal standards.
Representatives for the two professional organizations for private investigators in the state of Florida have both voiced their opposition to the new law.
Chris Rumbaugh is a director with the Florida Association of Private Investigators (FAPI).
Rumbaugh says that while it is always possible that a private investigator could mistakenly take on a stalker client, so far there have been no cases like this reported in Florida.
Tim O’Rourke is the president of the Florida Association of Licensed Investigators (FALI).
O’Rourke further notes that even though there are bad apples in every professional field, any concerns about private investigators taking on client stalkers should be addressed by Florida’s ability to revoke a private investigator’s professional license in the event that they fail to properly vet a client.
State Rep. Metz says that PI’s are still allowed to do surveillance work, but they have to consider a person’s privacy rights as well as property rights under the new law.
Another reason that more states like Florida are implementing these restrictive GPS tracking laws is the Supreme Court case United States v. Jones, 132 S.Ct. 945, where SCOTUS decided that the use of tracking devices without a warrant violated Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure.