House lawmakers approved a bill Wednesday to make secretive GPS tracking of another person illegal – and added an exception for private investigators.
But private eyes are not happy with the change, saying the language in the proposed law still limits the use of the devices they believe to be a vital industry tool.
Senate Bill 238 would include non-consensual GPS stalking under the umbrella definition of cyberstalking, which is a class 2 misdemeanor.
It would allow some to continue use of GPS tracking devices, including various law enforcement officers, the owner of a vehicle fleet or a parent tracking their child’s location.
However, there has been a debate about whether to allow private investigators an exception.
Critics of including private investigators do not want to create a loophole that allows people to circumvent the law by hiring an investigator. Industry representatives have said that would not be an issue because they thoroughly check prospective clients.
On Wednesday, Rep. John Faircloth, a High Point Republican, ran an amendment that would allow the private investigators to use GPS tracking while working to investigate three broad areas:
▪ Crimes or wrongs committed or threatened against the United States or any state or territory of the United States.
▪ The location, disposition, or recovery of lost or stolen property.
▪ The protection of individuals from serious bodily harm or death.
It passed the House 101-3.
Gary Pastor, president of NC Association of Private Investigators, said that isn’t enough.
“This is a vital tool used in cases from worker’s comp to child endangerment,” he said. “Without this tool, it will cost people a lot of money. We will have to use four to five vehicles to track one person.”
Pastor supported a failed amendment, introduced by Rep. Michael Speciale, a New Bern Republican, on Wednesday that would have stripped the bill language and made it a study bill.
“This bill has had contentious issues since it came to the floor,” Speciale said.
“We need to make sure whatever we do here is the right thing to do. I don’t have a dog in the fight either way.”
He said the weeks of debate indicate lawmakers have not looked at this issue closely enough.
“This is an issue that is going to affect people’s livelihoods and liberty,” Speciale said.
His amendment failed 15-89.
Senate bill sponsor Josh Stein, a Raleigh Democrat, said he supports the passed House amendment.
Stein consulted with Pastor and other private investigators and is aware of their continuing concerns.
“It was clear that they appreciated the provisions we included to use GPS trackers in certain cases,” Stein said. “They clearly want to use it in all cases, including martial disputes. We have concluded so far that that is a step too far.”
The next step is for the Senate to concur with the amended House version of the bill. Stein said he will ask his colleagues to approve the changes.