Location Monitoring A Comprehensive Guide to Defendant Tracking Systems


Location Monitoring A Comprehensive Guide to Defendant Tracking Systems


Location monitoring (LM) is a crucial tool in the supervision of individuals involved in the criminal justice system. By utilizing advanced technologies, officers can effectively track the whereabouts of persons under supervision and ensure compliance with court-imposed restrictions. This comprehensive guide will provide recommendations for the use of location monitoring equipment, discuss its application during pretrial release and post-conviction supervision, and offer sample condition language for court orders.

Recommendation of Location Monitoring

When considering the use of location monitoring, it is important for officers to recommend the most cost-effective and least restrictive yet appropriate LM equipment option to the person under supervision. The level of restriction and type of equipment chosen should correspond to the risk level of the individual. Higher risk individuals require more restrictive LM equipment to ensure adequate supervision. Officers must continuously reevaluate the risk and needs of participants on LM and make necessary modifications to the type of equipment or its components. This proactive approach helps to avoid under-supervising higher risk participants and over-supervising lower risk individuals.

LM During Pretrial Release


location monitoring a comprehensive guide to defendant tracking systems

LM is often combined with pretrial services supervision and is typically ordered for individuals with identified issues such as failing to appear, sexual deviance, weapons possession, and violence. In cases where the presence of the individual in the approved home or their location in the community needs to be verified, a location restriction condition should be recommended or selected. For offenses involving a minor child, as listed at 18 U.S.C. § 3142, the Adam Walsh Act mandates the imposition of LM and a specified curfew. RF or GPS equipment should be used to fulfill this requirement. It is important to note that voice recognition and virtual monitoring supervision, although LM technologies, are considered low-risk alternatives and should not be used for this high-risk population.

Individuals with lower risk levels and needs who are enrolled in the Federal Location Monitoring (FLM) program during prerelease custody should, to the extent practicable, be placed on home confinement. RF equipment is recommended for FLM participants, but the type of LM equipment may be modified based on the risk level and personal circumstances with management approval.

LM During Post Conviction Supervision

During post conviction supervision, LM equipment allows officers to track the presence of individuals under supervision in their approved residence. This information is crucial for scheduling community contact visits. GPS equipment is particularly useful in detecting noncompliance, such as entering prohibited areas or violating court orders. The type of LM equipment used will depend on the risk level of the individual and the specific requirements of their supervision.

LM technology can be recommended as a sanction or action in response to violations, but it should only be used to address specific risks associated with the violation. Again, the type of LM equipment and component used should be based on the risk level of the individual.

In general, voice recognition, virtual monitoring, or RF equipment is best suited for individuals with lower risk and need levels. GPS equipment, on the other hand, is the preferred supervision tool for higher risk individuals in need of enhanced supervision.

Location Monitoring Summary Chart

The following chart provides an overview of different types of LM equipment, their operational mechanics, and potential limitations:


Type of Equipment Operational Mechanics Potential Limitation(s) When Best to Impose*
RF Landline A non-removable, waterproof, and shock-resistant transmitter is affixed to the wrist or ankle of a participant 24 hours a day. The transmitter sends a constant radio signal back to a receiver in the participant’s residence. The transmitter reports only when a participant enters or leaves the equipment’s detectable range. Location data is only available for the location where the receiver is placed (residence) and does not report where or how far the person under supervision has gone if the participant leaves the receiver’s range. Violations cannot be detected when the participant is out of range of the receiver. Monitoring lower risk individuals. May also be used for individuals sentenced under the Adam Walsh Act and on a curfew. Recommended for individuals enrolled in the FLM program during prerelease custody.
RF Cellular Same as RF-landline except that it transmits data via cellular signal and not a telephone landline. Possible cellular service issues if the participant lives in or travels to a remote or mountainous area. Same as RF-landline
GPS A non-removable, waterproof, and shock-resistant GPS tracker is affixed to the ankle of a participant 24 hours a day. The participant is required to charge the GPS tracker at least daily or as directed. The participant’s location is detected by GPS satellites, cellular towers, and/or Wi-Fi. Participant required to charge their GPS tracker daily or as directed. Possible cellular/GPS service issues if the participant lives in or travels to a remote or mountainous area. When enhanced supervision is needed and the whereabouts of the person under supervision must be monitored when the participant leaves the approved residence, or when a third-party risk has been identified. May also be used for individuals sentenced under the Adam Walsh Act and on a curfew, but GPS should not be the default technology for these cases and an individualized assessment should be done.
Voice Recognition (VR) An automated system places telephone calls (random or scheduled) to verify a participant’s presence at a location (e.g., residence, employment). Requires a telephone landline. Best suited for monitoring lower risk, non-violent persons, because VR technology does not provide continuous monitoring. May be used for participants who have medical/physical conditions prohibiting the use of traditional LM equipment. Same as RF-landline
Virtual Monitoring Supervision An application (app) is downloaded to the participant’s mobile device. A participant receives a push notification (random or scheduled) to their mobile device directing them to complete a “check-in” contact using two-factor authentication (e.g., facial recognition, fingerprint, and/or password), which uses the mobile device’s GPS location services to report their current location or verify they are within a zone (e.g., residence). If the participant is out of cellular and/or Wi-Fi coverage during a required “check-in,” the pending data is submitted when coverage becomes available. Monitoring lower risk individuals. May be used for participants who have medical/physical conditions prohibiting the use of traditional LM equipment.

*The most cost-effective and least invasive, yet appropriate, LM equipment option available to the person under supervision should always be recommended, and the risk and needs of a participant should constantly be reevaluated by officers to determine if the court should modify the type of equipment and the component.

Sample Condition Language for Court Orders

When imposing a LM condition, the court may use the following sample language:

“You shall participate in the Location Monitoring Program for a period of __ days utilizing __ technology and shall abide by all program and technology requirements.

___ Radio Frequency (RF) Monitoring;

___ GPS Monitoring;

___ Voice Recognition; or

___ The location monitoring technology chosen at the officer’s discretion.

This form of location monitoring technology will be used to monitor the following restriction on your movement in the community:

__ You are restricted to your residence every day from __ to _ or as directed by the supervising officer (curfew).

__You are restricted to 24-hour-a-day lockdown your residence except for employment; education; religious services; medical, substance abuse, or mental health treatment; attorney visits; court appearances; court-ordered obligations; or other activities as preapproved by the officer (home detention).

__ You are restricted to your residence at all times except for medical necessities and court appearances or other activities specifically approved by the court (home incarceration).

__ You have no residential curfew restrictions; however, must comply with the location or travel restriction as imposed by the court. Note: this component should be used in conjunction with GPS technology (Stand Alone Monitoring).

[You shall pay ____ (all, part, or none) of must pay the costs of the program as directed by the Court and/or supervising officer.]”

Installation of Location Monitoring Equipment

Once the LM equipment to be used is determined, officers are required to install the equipment at the participant’s residence or conduct an in-office installation followed by a home visit for verification. This process ensures proper installation, limits tampering, and verifies the functionality of the equipment. For individuals on pretrial release, installation must be completed on the same day as the court orders bail or the day of release from custody. For post-conviction participants, officers should install the equipment as soon as possible but no later than 10 business days from the court’s order. Higher risk individuals should have their LM equipment installed immediately or as soon as practicable. Participants in the FLM program should have their LM equipment installed immediately upon release from prison or a halfway house. In instances where a home visit is delayed due to travel or safety concerns, the officer may authorize self-installation by the participant with subsequent verification by the officer within 48 hours or the next business day.

Maintaining Contact with Persons on Location Monitoring

Supervising officers are required to conduct personal community contacts with individuals on LM every 30 calendar days. These contacts serve to inspect the monitoring equipment and gather information from community members who can provide insights into the participant’s activities and compliance with program regulations. In cases where the participant poses no threat to the community and is in full compliance, the 30-day personal community contact may be waived for up to six months with management permission.

Monitoring Location Monitoring and Responding to Alerts

Officers must stay vigilant by reviewing monitoring reports and GPS mapping daily for individuals with a history of sex offenses or those charged with a sex offense. For other cases, daily report review is required each business day. This regular review helps identify patterns of behavior, equipment issues, or non-compliance with program rules. Officers are also responsible for responding to LM alerts and investigating any violations. The specific tasks and frequency of review depend on the type of LM equipment used.


Location monitoring is an indispensable tool in the supervision of individuals involved in the criminal justice system. By recommending the appropriate LM equipment and regularly reevaluating the risk and needs of participants, officers can ensure effective supervision while avoiding under-supervision or over-supervision. LM technology, such as RF, GPS, voice recognition, and virtual monitoring, offers a range of options to meet the unique requirements of different individuals. By following the recommended procedures and using the sample condition language provided, courts and supervising officers can implement location monitoring effectively and efficiently.

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