Legal Consequences of Illegal Cell Phone Tracking

Unlawful or illegal cell phone tracking can have serious legal consequences and ramifications. The exact nature of these consequences can vary based on the jurisdiction, the specifics of the tracking, and the laws that were violated. Here are some key points to consider:

1. Violations of Federal Laws

In the United States, several federal laws address the unauthorized tracking of cell phones:

– Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA): This act prohibits the unauthorized interception of electronic communications, including data from cell phones. Violations can result in criminal charges, fines, and imprisonment.

– Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA): Unauthorized access to computer systems, which can include cell phones, is illegal under this act. Penalties can include substantial fines and imprisonment.

– Wiretap Act: This law prohibits the intentional interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications without consent. Unauthorized cell phone tracking can fall under this category, leading to severe penalties.

2. Violation of State Laws

Many states have their own laws that address privacy and the unauthorized tracking of individuals. These laws can vary significantly but generally include:

– Invasion of Privacy: Many states have statutes that protect individuals from unauthorized tracking or surveillance, and violations can result in both criminal charges and civil liability.

– Anti-Stalking Laws: Unauthorized tracking can also fall under anti-stalking statutes, which typically carry severe penalties.

What are the laws in California?

In California, the legal consequences of illegal cell phone tracking are severe and multifaceted. These consequences include criminal charges, civil liability, and regulatory actions, reflecting the state’s strong commitment to protecting privacy. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the potential ramifications:

1. Violations of California Law

Invasion of Privacy (California Penal Code § 637.7)

– Prohibition: It is illegal to use an electronic tracking device to determine the location or movement of a person without their consent.
– Penalties: Violations can result in fines of up to $1,000 and imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months.

California Invasion of Privacy Act (Penal Code § 630-638)

– Prohibition: This law broadly prohibits eavesdropping on or recording private communications without the consent of all parties involved.
– Penalties: Violations can lead to fines and imprisonment, with penalties varying based on the severity of the offense.

2. Civil Liability

Invasion of Privacy (California Civil Code § 1708.8)

– Private Right of Action: Individuals who have been subject to illegal tracking can sue for invasion of privacy.
– Damages: Victims may recover actual damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. Punitive damages can be substantial if the conduct is found to be willful and malicious.

California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

– Data Protection: The CCPA imposes strict requirements on businesses regarding the collection, storage, and use of personal data, including location data.
– Penalties: Violations of the CCPA can result in civil penalties of up to $7,500 per intentional violation and $2,500 per unintentional violation, imposed by the California Attorney General.

3. Regulatory Actions

California Attorney General

– Enforcement: The Attorney General can enforce privacy laws and impose fines and penalties for violations.
– Actions: Regulatory actions can include investigations, fines, and injunctions to prevent further illegal tracking activities.

4. Criminal Penalties

Penal Code § 502 (California Computer Crime Law)

– Unauthorized Access: This law prohibits unauthorized access to computers, networks, and data, which can include illegal tracking through digital means.
– Penalties: Penalties include imprisonment and fines, with the severity depending on the extent of the unauthorized access and any resulting harm.

Anti-Stalking Laws (Penal Code § 646.9)

– Prohibition: Stalking, which can include tracking someone’s location without their consent, is prohibited.
– Penalties: Stalking can result in significant criminal penalties, including imprisonment for up to five years and fines.

3. Civil Liability

In addition to criminal penalties, individuals or entities that engage in unlawful cell phone tracking may face civil lawsuits. Potential claims can include:

– Invasion of Privacy: Victims can sue for damages resulting from an invasion of their privacy.

– Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress: If the tracking causes severe emotional distress, victims may be able to seek damages.

– Trespass to Chattels: Unauthorized access to someone’s cell phone can be considered a form of trespass, leading to potential liability.

4. Regulatory Actions

Regulatory bodies, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), can take action against companies or individuals engaged in unlawful tracking practices. This can result in the following consequences:

– Fines and Penalties: Regulatory bodies can impose substantial fines.

– Injunctions: Regulators can seek court orders to prevent further illegal activity.

– Reputation Damage: Regulatory actions can lead to significant damage to the reputation of the offending party, affecting business operations and relationships.

5. Criminal Penalties

Depending on the severity of the violation, individuals found guilty of unlawful cell phone tracking can face serious criminal penalties such as:

– Fines: Significant financial penalties can be imposed.

– Imprisonment: Violations of laws such as the ECPA, CFAA, and Wiretap Act can result in imprisonment, with sentences varying based on the severity and nature of the offense.

– Probation: Offenders may be placed on probation, with conditions that must be met to avoid further penalties.

6. International Considerations

For tracking that crosses international borders, additional complications can arise, including:

– Extradition: Individuals may face extradition to countries where they have violated privacy laws.

– International Treaties: Various international agreements and treaties can come into play, leading to coordinated legal actions across multiple jurisdictions.


Unlawful or illegal cell phone tracking can lead to a wide range of legal consequences, including criminal charges, civil liability, regulatory actions, and significant financial and reputational damage. Both federal and state laws in the U.S. (and equivalent laws in other countries) provide strong protections against unauthorized tracking, with serious penalties for violators. Consulting legal counsel is essential for understanding and navigating the complexities of these issues. You may contact our law firm to speak with an internet and technology lawyer regarding your legal rights.