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Abuse Using Technology

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Updated: July 12, 2024

How do courts use GPS technology to track offenders?

Some states have specific laws that allow judges and law enforcement to use technology in ways that are intended to protect victims of domestic violence. For example, law enforcement and courts can use global positioning systems (GPS) technology to track offenders who have committed domestic violence and stalking. Depending on your state, a judge may be able to order GPS tracking in a criminal or civil court case.

There are two types of GPS tracking – active and passive. With an active GPS tracking device, you would be notified if the abuser physically goes to a location where s/he is prohibited from entering. It is possible that additional notifications would go to law enforcement or any court-ordered supervision agency that is monitoring the offender.

With a passive GPS tracking device, the abuser may only be required to upload his/her location history once a day or even less frequently. The location history may then be reviewed from time to time by a probation officer, or it may be used as a tool by law enforcement if you allege that the abuser violated the order.

Are there any risks to having an offender’s location tracked?

Tracking abusers with GPS technology can have risks if the victim relies solely upon GPS tracking to stay safe. For example, passive GPS monitoring cannot be relied upon as a way to protect or warn you or law enforcement of the abuser’s location to prevent possible further abuse. Active GPS monitoring is only effective if there are enough well-trained law enforcement officers to monitor and quickly respond when an abuser enters a prohibited location near you. In addition, the court must have proper procedures in place to hold offenders accountable for violating court orders. Also, if you do not have access to the required technology to alert you if the offender comes near you, or if you have the technology but it fails, active GPS monitoring may not provide enough warning to protect yourself. 

If the judge gives you the option to have GPS tracking, you may want to consult with a domestic violence advocate to make this decision and to safety plan