A new law was recently implemented in New York that criminalizes a use of GPS for the purposes of stalking.
For the law to apply, the person being followed informs the stalker that such behavior is unwelcome. This requirement conforms to New York’s stalking law, which requires people to let a suspected stalker know that certain kinds of conduct are unwanted.
The Reason for the New Law
The new law, called Jackie’s Law, was implemented in response to the murder of Jackie Wisniewski by her boyfriend two years ago at the Erie County Medical Center. Prior to her demise, Wisniewski discovered a GPS device that her boyfriend had put in her car. However, law enforcement officials were unable to prosecute him for stalking her with a GPS because under the state’s stalking laws, such conduct was not forbidden.
Only if the alleged stalker is told that his or her behavior is unwelcome, and the stalker persists in tracking the victim, are the police then able to charge the person with stalking in the fourth degree. Jackie’s Law is significant in that it removes the burden of filing charges from the victim, and places it upon the police. In so doing, it offers some protection to victims of domestic violence and other types of violence.
Other Uses of GPS Tracking
Not only has GPS technology been used to track victims of domestic violence, but it has also been used by political opponents to discover whether one was residing in a certain political district.
Unfortunately, tracking someone with a GPS device without that person’s knowledge is still legal. And if that person discovers the device, but does not inform the perpetrator that such conduct is unwelcome, then the use of the GPS is still legal.
Potential Changes in the Law
According to recently proposed federal legislation, secretive use of GPS trackers may also soon be criminalized, with the exception of such use by the police, parents of minors, and in certain cases of patients afflicted with dementia or similar illnesses.
Although the new law is an improvement over the previous one, the onus is still on the victim to confront and inform the perpetrator that such behavior is unwelcome. But if the victim is so fearful of the stalker that he or she would prefer to have no contact with him or her, then perhaps the victim could relay those fears to the police, who could then act as the victim’s messenger, and inform the stalker. Then, if the stalker still engages in GPS tracking, the police would be free to press charges.