GPS Devices and Domestic Violence
Under New Jersey law, domestic violence is defined as the occurrence of certain acts inflicted upon a person by someone who is close to that person, such as a spouse, former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or other members of your household. The acts that constitute domestic violence include, but are not limited to: homicide, assault, criminal restraint, sexual assault, harassment, and stalking. For a full list, see N.J.S.A 2C:25-19. This article focuses on stalking as it relates to domestic violence under New Jersey law.
Most people are familiar with stalking as being one person following or watching another person, but with modern technology, stalking can take on a more high-tech form. The utilization of GPS tracking devices for purposes of finding out the whereabouts of a former spouse are a relatively recent occurrence, and one that the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division ruled on in the case of L.A.V.H v. R.J.V.H. in 2011.GPS Tracking Devices and Stalking - L.A.V.H v. R.J.V.H. (2011)
The case involves a couple that divorced in July 2009. At that time Plaintiff (the former wife) obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Defendant (the former husband), based on the plaintiff’s statements that the Defendant had somehow known “everything about everything she was doing at all times.” In October 2009 the parties entered into a consent order that imposed civil restraints, including the restraint that Defendant would not stalk, follow, or threaten to harm, stalk, or follow Plaintiff. At that time Plaintiff dismissed her TRO.
Around the time of the divorce the Plaintiff began a relationship with Matthew DiLeo. On May 21, 2010 DiLeo was driving his car when he hit a pothole and heard something fall off his vehicle. When he stopped to investigate, he “saw a black box bouncing in the road” and opened it and discovered that it was a GPS tracking device. Shortly after, he discovered a second device attached to the bottom of his car. He filed a complaint with local law enforcement. Plaintiff filed another TRO upon learning of the GPS devices found on DiLeo’s car, stating that she felt threatened by Defendant and believed that he had violated their consent order because Defendant used her boyfriend to “stalk and harass” her. She detailed a prior history of domestic violence with Defendant, including that he had put a GPS device on the car that she drove.
The Defendant engaged the services of a private investigator in January or February 2010. Defendant stated that he was hired to determine whether Mr. DiLeo was living in his former home with Plaintiff, because if he were that would have been a violation for the parties Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) and Defendant would stand to benefit financially from that violation. The Investigator was not allowed to testify to the services he performed for Defendant, but he did recall telling Defendant that he was familiar with GPS tracking devices.
The court found that Defendant’s actions met the definition of “stalking” under New Jersey law N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10, but did not meet the definition of “harassment” under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, because he did not intent for the plaintiff to find out. The court entered a Final Restraining Order (FRO).
L.A.V.H. v. R.J.V.H., No. A-6292-09T4 (N.J. Super. 2011)
New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991