In the recent unpublished decision of L.G. v. T.G.. the Appellate Division addresses an issue that we are dealing with more and more – tracking one’s spouse through a hidden GPS on their car. GPS in terms of domestic violence isn’t necessarily “new” – you can read about the beginnings in Eric Solotoff’s 2011
Technology is making it easier and easier to satisfy our curiosity about just what the heck the people in our lives are up to. Are you curious about your husband’s whereabouts? You could plant a GPS device on his car. Do you want to know what your wife is saying to the kids? There are…
About a month ago, I blogged on a case that held that putting a GPS in a spouse’s car was not an invasion of privacy because cars travel on public roads and there is no expectation of privacy. That said, invasion of privacy is a tort so this case really did not address the domestic violence/stalking implications of the conduct. In fact, at the end of the post, I said:
Now, should people going through a divorce take this as a green light to start placing GPS devices in their spouse’s vehicle. Perhaps not. There have been some that have argued and some judges have found that that conduct would amount to domestic violence – perhaps harassment or stalking. Of course, that begs the question of how the alleged victim could demonstrate the requisite fear or be alarmed, if the did not know of the placement of the GPS and similarly, how it would be stalking if the person did not know that the GPS was recording their movements. I have no doubt that there will be more to come on this.
Little did I know that more was going to come so soon. That is, until I read L.J.V.H. v. R.J.V.H., an unreported Appellate Division opinion decided yesterday. In that case, the court found that the putting a GPS device in an ex-wife’s new boyfriend’s car was stalking and thus domestic violence.
Apparently, this was not the defendant’s first foray into the use of a GPS. At the commencement of the original divorce a year prior, the defendant had put a GPS on the wife’s car. She obtained a TRO which was ultimately resolved by a consent order in the divorce case for restraints, including restraints on stalking.
As technology progresses, the use of it rears its head during divorce cases. One such form of technology is the use of a GPS in a spouses vehicle. In a reported (precedential) opinion decided on July 7, 2011, in the case of Villanova vs. Innovative Investigations, the Appellate Division affirmed a trial court’s granting of summary judgment, effectively dismissing a husband’s invasion of privacy claim.
In this case, the wife , in the midst of divorce proceedings, hired a private investigator to follow her husband. The private investigator later suggested that the wife put a GPS device in the family vehicle driven by the husband and she did. She later used the findings in the divorce case. During the divorce case, the husband amended his divorce pleading to seek invasion of privacy damages against the wife. He also tried to add the defendant’s in this case, the private investigator as a defendant in the divorce case but the court would not allow that. The husband ultimately abandoned his tort claim against the wife in their settlement but reserved his rights to pursue his claim against the private investigator.
The invasion of privacy claim in the case against the private investigator was ultimately dismissed because the court found that there is no expectation of privacy driving over public roads.
When does electronic surveillance of another person constitute a violation of the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act? That was the question recently tackled by the Appellate Division in its unpublished decision, Kebea v. David. The unmarried couple at issue was living together when, one evening, they got into a heated argument and Kebea told David to leave the apartment. Kebea obtained a Temporary Restraining Order after David returned to the apartment and removed a few items he had purchased. She ultimately voluntarily dismissed the TRO against David, who then purchased a software program by which he could learn about the contents of her emails to determine if she would lie to him about an ex-boyfriend so that he could end the relationship if he felt necessary.