Joining The Right Organization

Joining the Non-Profit Anti-Exploitation World — Part 2 If you read my last post and were not disuaded from joining or volunteering with an organization, the next question is, “which one?” Were up to me, everyone would join all of … Read more

GPS tracking legislation on way to Virginia Governor – Part 3

“GPS Tracking” Bill HB 1981 – From Placing to Implanting 

Delegate May has been the driving force behind what is now HB1981.  This started, according to May, as a failed attempt 8 years or so prior, when he wanted legislation that would protect any information that your vehicle transmitted, from being used or captured for any purpose.  

A few years later Delegate May says that a Constituent took his vehicle into a repair shop for work.  The mechanic alerted May’s Constituent to an Electronic Tracking Device that was discovered while working on his vehicle.  

The Constituent inquired, according to May, with local law enforcement and then the State Attorney Generals office about criminal actions only to become frustrated after learning that there were no crimes committed by his wife who placed or had placed the tracking device on the vehicle.  When the Constituant brought this to Delegate May; May found reason to rekindle his original desires from years before, and by using his Constituent as motivation, began crafting what is typically referred to GPS Tracking legislation.

Delegate May first introduced legislation during the 2010 session, HB670.  This Bill set out to clearly create a penalty, a Class 4 Misdemeanor, for placing an electronic tracking device onto a motor vehicle. This Bill was passed by in the Science and Technology Committee and died there.

In 2011 the Bill evolves to become HB2032 and is reintroduced. Now seeking to criminalize the placement of a GPS Tracking Device onto or in a vehicle, a Class 3 Misdemeanor.  The 2011 session was not kind to this Bill, ultimately being passed by once again by the Courts of Justice Committee.  

In 2012 the Bill takes on yet another incarnation this time known as HB 807.  HB 807 focused on the installation, placement, and use of electronic tracking devices to track the location of a person.  Despite Mays best efforts, the Bill was defeated twice during two sessions of the Courts of Justice Committee.  

In 2013 we get to see the current incarnation of May’s efforts to criminalize electronic tracking devices HB 1981.  In HB 1981, the legislation that has made it to the Governors desk to become law, the intent of what this Bill was supposed to accomplish becomes even more vague.  

So what was the intent?

This Bill, when it started out according to May, was to introduce legislation to provide a remedy for his Constituents inability to criminalize the actions of his then wife for tracking his whereabouts. May could not recall all of the particulars of the Constituents situation so many years later. However he was certain that it was a domestic issue that did not cause fear for his Constituents safety, but instead angered his Constituent ultimately because the information that was gained from the use of the tracking device was leveraged  in divorce proceedings.

Along the way of this Bills life, various groups either sided with May or came out fighting hard against May for one reason or another.  Some felt this was big Government dictating what can and cannot be done with ones personal property, while others had serious fear of being harmed by the misuse of such technology by an ex partner. Everyone who went on record at the Senate and House meetings seemed to have reasonable arguments and concerns either for or against Electronic Tracking Devices.

While preparing for an interview with Delegate May, I reread the legislation and tried to set aside any preconceived notions of what the Bill was to be about, and the many carve-outs that I had heard about.  In doing so I honed in on several issues and developed some pointed questions for Delegate May.  It did occur to me while I was reading that this bill felt very different than the previous versions that I had so loudly spoken up on previously.  

I will spare you the actual transcript of the interview with Delegate May in this article however I will release it at a later time if appropriate.  

One of the many surprises that I discovered when rereading this Bill with fresh eyes and comparing with previous versions was the noted absence of the word vehicle or motor vehicle in this version until addressing the fleet use of Electronic Tracking Devices.

When I inquired about the obvious migration of Mays Bill from the actual act of placing a tracking device onto a vehicle, and monitoring the vehicles movements, to what had now become placing an electronic tracking device onto or into a person, May became noticeably uncomfortable.  

May began to side step the inquiry, as any well groomed politician would, and said well that is a good question, “I am an electrical engineer by profession and not a lawyer” let me put you in touch with the “attorney who helped craft the actual language”.  

Not wanting May to run away from the interview, I digressed to a few ego-stroking comments and gave May the chance to become comfortable again.  As May let his guard down I began pressing once more about the evolution of this Bill and the various carve-outs as May liked to call them; even given certain sections pet names, such as “oh the Au pair carve-outs” or the “P.I. carve-outs”.  

Since HB 1981 focuses on deceptively placing onto or into a person and tracking a persons movements I wanted to press May on his intended definition of an Electronic Tracking Device.

When May was asked if technology like video cameras, such as those found in retail stores that are often covert and remotely monitored, would in fact qualify as an Electronic Tracking Device he agreed that they would.  May felt it was a stretch, however store owners who failed to notify the store patrons of Electronic Tracking would be in violation of this legislation.  It should be noted that May did attempt to play down this facet, and encouraged me to focus on the scope what the hidden camera could see in that type of setting.  

I wanted to get to the bottom of May’s intent so I then posed this question to May for further clarification. 

As a Citizen of Virginia, I decided, on a whim, to place a GPS Tracking Device or similar technology on my neighbor’s car without consent would I be in violation of this legislation.  May stated “no”.  May went on to say “you are monitoring the vehicle and not the person”.  

With Mays acknowledgment that personal property is not regulated by this legislation, it begs the question of how would one track the movements of the naked human over a large distance?

I covered other issues with Delegate May, as well as conveyed my thoughts on this Bills language, and my perception and ultimate disappointment, of the bills original intent versus what it had become.  I also expressed to Delegate May my confusion about the Bills lack luster ability to accomplish anything other than criminalizing the placement of an electronic tracking device on or in, and then monitoring the movements of, a naked human being.  

When May was asked about how he felt about HB 1981 and if he felt it accomplished what he had set out to do he said he was “pretty happy with it”.  I will agree with May on this comment for the following reason. Now we can now all feel a little safer, as citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, that we will have justice should we unwittingly swallow an electronic tracking device stuffed into that cheeseburger that is then used by the marketing department of a fast food chain to see where we go.

I attempt to make the point in this article that words really do matter.  I have heard from colleagues and others that gloss over the verbiage used in this particular Bill, say things like “well the intent was” or “what this is trying to say is”.

When writing laws, our legislators and those that they rely on to proof their work, really should pay attention to their choice of words.  If for no other reason than we have become conditioned as a result of outdated or ambiguous language to guess at a laws intention.

There is little doubt in my mind that if we had a video tape of the founding fathers thought process and their clear intentions for the US Constitution, there would be a lot less confusion about issues like those in the previously mentioned case law examples of this article.

In the next article in this series, I will break down the final and most important aspect of this poorly written legislation and demonstrate exactly why it will be unenforceable.  

We will also get back to the real focus of Electronic Tracking Devices, and look at other legislation that stalled in this years session that are likely to raise their ugly little heads again in 2014. 

Finally I will close this series with simple language that can effectively resolve the Electronic Tracking Device issue.  

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Written by  John Morse

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GPS Part 1

GPS Part 2

GPS Tracking – Legislation on way to Virginia Governor Part 2

In Part One of this series, we discussed the core issues of GPS Tracking and looked at how rapid advances in technology affect both our privacy and our personal freedoms. In this installment, we take a closer look at specific cases that pertain to these technologies and how they have been legislated.

Another federal case of note regarding electronic tracking devices is U.S. vs. Knotts. In this instance, the Supreme Court ruled that the state had not violated Mr. Armstrong’s Fourth Amendment rights by placing a beeper device (an older cousin of the GPS we know today) into a container of chloroform without his knowledge. Mr. Armstrong had failed to adequately inspect the container before taking it into his possession of his own free will, regardless of its covert nature. The failure to inspect the container with the tracking device before accepting them was tantamount to consent.

The court ruled that monitoring beeper signals did not invade any legitimate expectation of privacy on the part of the respondent. Therefore, there was never a “search” or “seizure” that fell within the parameters of the Fourth Amendment. The surveillance amounted to following a car on public streets and highways. No person traveling on these public routes has reasonable expectations of concealing their movements. While the person in question did have some expectation of privacy within their home (or cabin, in this particular case), this does not extend to publically funded roadways.

In short, the court does not have evidence presented in Knott’s case that would indicate that the tracking was not done in a public place.This still begs the question of what to do when someone is no longer in public view; i.e. gated communities, private roads and other outlets that are off the public grid.

In both of these cases, the key element was the method used to place the tracking device and the monitoring of the device itself. In the case of Jones, there was no “consent” and his property was private despite being in public view and in a public area.

It should also be noted that Jones’s girlfriend, the owner of the vehicle, did not give her consent in the matter. Each of these scenarios presents a different approach to the same grey area that exists in today’s national discussion and legislation of electronic tracking methods and placements.

In part three of this article will break down HB1981. By doing this, we will reveal the Chief Patrons intent of the bill, and demonstrate how greatly it has strayed from enforceable legislation to unenforceable ambiguity.

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Written by John Morse

GPS Tracking – Legislation on way to Virginia Governor Part 1

This series of articles is designed to bring into focus the aftermath of US Vs. Jones and the rush to regulate Electronic Tracking of the American Citizen as well as Personal Property. The ultimate failure of Virginia’s HB 1981, and the unfortunate shortsightedness that will likely be followed by other States.

Working as a Private Investigator

For decades, fictional characters such as Sherlock Holmes and Magnum P.I. have glorified the private investigator turning them into a hot commodity. Although private investigators can be tasked with some exciting cases, their main responsibility is to uncover the facts and bring justice to their clients.

“Media portrayal of private investigators is far more exotic than the actual day-to-day dynamics,” says Roger Humber, director of the Criminal Justice department at South University, Montgomery. “The typical day will depend on the case or service that the PI has contracted to perform.”

Instead of being inspired by fictional private investigators, John Morse, owner of Morse Investigation Services, decided to open his own firm after hiring an investigation professional to do work for him more than 10 years ago.

“I found the experience horrible,” Morse says. “I knew a lot of the tricks of the industry and knew I could do a better job.”

Morse had to put in a lot of hard work in order to get his firm started.

In Virginia, where his firm is located, he says candidates for private investigator jobs are required to meet certain guidelines and minimum training requirements.

He had prior experience running a business and managing people, which he says helped him to avoid some of the common pitfalls of starting a new business.

When hiring private investigators to add to his staff, Morse says he has found that no matter what is taught in a classroom or read in a book, there is no replacement for actual experience.

“Sometimes life experience in general is more than enough,” Morse says.

Media portrayal of private investigators is far more exotic than the actual day-to-day dynamics.

When a firm is staffed with good, hard-working, knowledgeable investigators, Morse says providing good customer service is probably the single most important aspect of managing a private investigation firm.

“You must manage your clients’ budget, expectations, and ensure that your client is kept up to date,” Morse says. “Managing a large caseload and multiple investigators is an arduous task. We utilize cloud base case management that allows our investigators to update a case in real time. This has proved to be a wise investment and has saved countless man hours.”


As a private investigator, Morse says his work hours can often be long and unpredictable.

“If an investigator is not careful you will end up working nearly 24 hours a day,” he says. “There are cases that can only be worked at times when the only people that should be awake are the law and the outlaw. People under investigation typically mess up when it is least convenient for you as an investigator to respond. That is why it is so important to be able and ready to drop what you are doing and go after your subject without notice.”

Morse says his firm primarily focuses on family law cases.

“However we have had great success with cold case murders, criminal defense cases, and personal injury cases,” he says.


Gabriele Suboch, an adjunct Criminal Justice instructor at South University, Online, says private investigator jobs span a wide variety of specialties, ranging from divorce to fraud. And that they mainly focus on civil issues, as the police are typically responsible for criminal cases.

“The PI is not allowed to make an arrest,” Suboch says.

Suboch says private investigators are commonly retired law enforcement officers, mostly detectives.

She says a private investigator must have good interview, computer, photography and interpersonal skills, in addition to a firm understanding of laws regarding what you can do and where you can go without a search warrant.

“A weapons permit is also strongly recommended,” Suboch says.

She also notes the importance of private investigators being knowledgeable in their line of work, so they can recognize everything they will need to do for an investigation to be a success.

Humber says the private investigation profession is not as strictly regulated as publicly funded criminal justice entities.

“There are no universal minimum standard criteria for someone interested in pursuing this career field,” Humber says. “For example, in Alabama there is currently no statewide regulation or requirement for someone wishing to become a PI.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) most states do require a private investigator to have a license, but specific laws vary according to each state.

Most states also require private investigators carrying a handgun to meet additional requirements, according to the BLS.

A private investigator specializing in negligence or criminal defense investigation can obtain the Certified Legal Investigator certification, offered by the National Association of Legal Investigators to demonstrate expertise in the field, says the BLS. Investigation professionals with a security specialization can also get a Professional Certified Investigator certification from ASIS International.

According to the BLS, private investigator jobs are expected to experience a 21% increase between 2010 and 2020. This is due to increasing security concerns and the need to keep property and confidential information secure.

Advances in technology have also led to an increasing number of cyber crimes, including identity theft, spamming, internet scams, and financial and insurance fraud, which has assisted in the demand for private investigators, says the BLS.

Author: Laura Jerpi

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