Is It Illegal to Put a Tracking Device on Someone Without Them Knowing?

Is It Illegal to Put a Tracking Device on Someone Without Them Knowing?

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In Texas, it’s illegal to put a tracking device on someone without them knowing about it. The Texas Penal Code Ann §16.06 specifically states that a person who installs a device to identify, monitor, or record the location of another person without their consent commits a criminal offense.

While this isn’t a felony, being convicted of the unlawful installation of a tracking device can lead to penalties. Understanding how to behave after facing these charges is key to avoiding serious consequences.

You need legal assistance if you or a loved one has been accused of unlawfully putting a tracking device on someone. To protect your rights, contact a Plano defense attorney today.

Man inside a car looking at a GPS tracker on his phone.

What Is a Tracking Device?

When they charge you with placing a tracking device on someone without their consent, it’s important to consider all legal nuances of the situation. The first one is the definition of the tracking device.

The Texas Penal Code states that a tracking device can emit an electronic frequency or other signal to identify, monitor, or record the location of a person or object.

The most common example of such a device is a GPS tracker. A person who installs a GPS tracking device on another person’s car to learn about their location throughout the day could face charges.

When Is It Legal to Install a Tracking Device?

In rare cases, it may be legal to install a tracking device to monitor the location of another person. They are:

  • Consent. The person consents to put the tracking device on their property (vehicle, backpack, clothing).
  • Private investigator. A licensed private investigator under Chapter 1702, Occupations Code acts according to written consent or a court order.
  • Ownership. You put a tracking device on your own or shared property (for example, the car belongs to you and your spouse).

The joint ownership of the property isn’t always a straightforward defense against the charges of unlawfully placing a tracking device on someone. For example, if the car belongs to both spouses, but there is clear evidence that just one of them drives it, tracking could be considered illegal.

Peace officers also have the right to install it without the person’s knowledge. Only if they are conducting a criminal investigation or have a court order. 

Driver using a GPS map on the screen of a smartphone in a car.

Unlawful Installation: Common Defenses

If you were charged with the unlawful installation of a tracking device, a criminal defense lawyer could leverage several arguments to prove your innocence or reduce the charges.

  • Lack of Evidence – a lawyer may challenge the prosecution’s evidence, arguing that there is insufficient proof that you installed the device.
  • Consent – if the person allowed you to install the tracking device, your attorney will gather evidence to prove it.
  • Lawful Authority – your lawyer may be able to argue that you had a legitimate reason or lawful authority to install the tracking device. This includes cases involving law enforcement or court-approved surveillance.
  • Mistaken Identity -if there is a possibility of mistaken identity, the lawyer may present evidence or raise doubt about your involvement in installing the device.

In some situations, a person may be deceived into installing a tracking device. An attorney can collect relevant evidence and eyewitness testimonies to prove the deception.

Penalties for Illegally Installing a Tracking Device Without Consent

Unlawfully installing a tracking device without another person’s consent is a Class A misdemeanor. Penalties for a Class A misdemeanor in Texas include up to $4,000 fine, up to one year in jail, or both. The judge may allow you to serve the time intermittently or under house arrest.

Man facing charges, talking to a female officer in a room.

What to Do if You Are Charged With Unlawful Tracking Device Installation

Facing charges is always a stressful experience that causes many people to make mistakes. It’s important to remember that charges are a long journey away from a conviction. With the right legal representation, you have a chance to prove your innocence or reduce the penalty.

The first step to take as soon as you are charged is to contact an experienced defense attorney. Together you can discuss further steps and opportunities to defend your rights.

In some situations, the criminal defense lawyer can stop the case in its tracks. They can also prevent the prosecution from charging you. By acting quickly, you have an opportunity to avoid prosecution or face a lesser charge

Once the defense attorney takes your case on, they can help navigate the process by:

  • Investigating the case
  • Researching and collecting relevant evidence
  • Handling paperwork
  • Negotiating with prosecutors
  • Dealing with jury selection
  • Taking your through trial if necessary

Besides handling the legal aspects of your case, a defense attorney can provide much-needed emotional support. Fear, anxiety, emotional distress, and panic are among a few things you can experience after facing charges. Additionally, having an experienced attorney who can create a solid plan of action by your side can help you handle the situation.

Starr Law, P.C. Can Defend You Against Unlawful Installation Charges

If you are charged with illegally putting a tracking device on someone without them knowing, you could be facing jail time. Even if you believe you are innocent, fighting the prosecution alone could lead to unfortunate consequences.

Criminal cases tend to unfold quickly. Without a professional legal approach, you could lose an opportunity to drop or reduce the charges. That’s why it’s imperative to speak to an attorney the moment you learn about legal action taken against you.

Attorney Kent Starr and his team have already helped many Texans defend their rights and avoid significant penalties. These criminal defense attorneys believe in going all the way to ensure a fair outcome for the defendant, even if it means going to trial.

Right now, your life and criminal record are still in your hands. Call us for a free consultation today.

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