Can the police bug your car?

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We constantly have a lot of questions about our rights. One of these questions we had recently: Can the police bug your car?

When it comes to catching the bad guys, the police will often use every tool at their disposal if it helps them get the job done. One such tool is a bug, which helps them listen to private conversations or track a vehicle’s movement.

However, can the police just bug your car if they feel like it? And, more importantly, can you even protect yourself from a police bug?

In this article, we will be answering these questions as well as helping you find and remove unwanted devices from your car.

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What exactly is a “bug”?

A bug is a somewhat generic and informal way of referring to a device that can be hidden somewhere to gather information about someone.

We can consider a bug to be a hidden microphone, but we can also consider it to be a vehicle tracker planted on someone’s car. In general, the term refers to a hidden spy data-gathering device, rather than a specific monitoring instrument.

What does a police car bug do?

The use of a police bug will depend on what exactly you are referring to. As we have mentioned, a bug can be a hidden microphone. In that case, the bug will be able to record your private conversations.

However, “car bug” more often refers to a GPS tracking device. These devices can relay your vehicle’s location in real-time as well as map out your entire routes.

Depending on the type of GPS tracker, the bug might need to be removed from the vehicle before the police can access its information. In the case of more modern devices, the information is transmitted instantly.

Can the police bug your car?

Although the specifics of the answer will depend on your jurisdiction, in general, the answer is yes – as long as they do it by the book.

If the police have probable cause and a warrant to bug your vehicle, they are allowed to bug your car. The good thing is that they are not allowed to track your vehicle just because they feel like it.

Warrants are issued based on evidence and probable cause. If you do not have any reason to worry about the police coming your way, then chances are they are not allowed to bug your car.

Other ways the police can monitor you

Besides bugging your car, the police can monitor you in several other different ways (assuming they have a warrant to do so). They can monitor your internet history, read your text messages, and even listen in on your phone calls.

You can take countermeasures to prevent any unwanted monitoring, such as using end-to-end encrypted messaging and email services. However, finding house bugs might be more difficult.

The best way to avoid any unwanted surveillance is by staying clear of any illegal activities.

How do I know if my car is bugged?

Unless you perform a physical sweep and find the tracker, it might be impossible to know you are currently being tracked.

If you suspect that someone might be tracking your vehicle or that you might have a bug on your car, consider looking for it in the following places:

  • near the front and rear bumpers
  • the wheel wells
  • underneath the car

Although those are the most frequent locations, car tracking devices can also be hidden in interior locations. While hiding a bug in one of these locations would require the police to have physical access to your vehicle’s interior, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Where to look for a car interior bug

If you cannot find a bug in the exterior parts, you should also consider looking for a tracking device in the following locations:

  • trunk
  • ODB port (check for any unknown connected devices)
  • glove box
  • near the battery (or check for any unknown wires connected to the battery).

Portable car tracking devices are sophisticated and can be very small, making them easy to hide. If you still can’t find the bug, consider using a bug detector – or the fact that you probably aren’t being tracked.

Can I remove a police bug from my car?

Although you can remove a bug from your car, the sad truth is that doing so might land you in trouble. In 2012, the police charged a man whose car they had bugged with theft because he removed the bug.

The police then used the theft to get a warrant to search his house, where they found the “stolen” tracking device as well as methamphetamines (the original reason they had bugged him).

Luckily, Indiana’s Supreme Court ruled that you couldn’t steal something that you didn’t know belonged to someone, and it did not agree with the lower court ruling that a person did not have the right to remove an unknown object from their vehicle.

Since the theft warrant was illegal, the entire case was thrown out. So, while you can remove a police bug from your car, doing so might result in a big headache.