During a divorce, or in contemplating a divorce, often one spouse will spy on the other spouse. This spying may take place by hacking into your email account, installing a GPS tracker on your vehicle, or intercepting your text messages. While this may seem tempting when instances of infidelity are suspected, there may be serious criminal and civil consequences for taking such actions.
Criminal Penalties for Spying on Your Spouse
Certain types of spying, such as hacking into your spouse’s email account and reading stored communications, are violations of state and federal law. If, for example, your spouse is found guilty of violating the Federal Wiretapping Act, a judge can order your spouse to stop the illegal acts, fine your spouse for the violations, or sentence your spouse to prison. Additionally, under the North Carolina Electronic Surveillance Act, your spouse may be convicted of a felony. Damages in those cases may be in the form of actual damages (up to $1000.00), punitive damages (to punish your spouse), and an award of attorney fees.
Civil Penalties for Spying on Your Spouse
In North Carolina, if your spouse has been spying on you, you may file a civil action for invasion of privacy. North Carolina case law has defined such a tort as follows: “One who intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon the solitude or seclusion of another or his private affairs or concerns, is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy, if the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.” Invading another’s privacy may occur if your spouse has wiretapped you or unlawfully gained access to your email, placed video cameras or otherwise spied on you in a place where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, gained unauthorized access to your bank accounts, and opened your personal mail.
If you would like to speak with a domestic attorney in regards to spousal spying or invasion of privacy, contact Adkins Law. Adkins Law is located in Huntersville, and primarily serves Mecklenburg County and the Lake Norman area.
While using a tape recorder to catch your significant other in a lie may seem like a fairly simple task, it is important to note that there are certain restrictions on this behavior. North Carolina is a “one party consent” state meaning that at least one person in a conversation must know that it is being recorded. Essentially, this means that it is illegal to hide a tape recorder in the hopes of catching your spouse and someone else having a meaningful conversation. Hiding a voice-activated recorder without being present in the conversation causes a disruption to state and federal wiretapping laws. However, this law does allow you to record yourself and your spouse in a conversation because you know that it is being taped and so have given your consent. One party is aware that the recording is occurring therefore the recording is legal and could be admissible evidence in court. This evidence can be useful in cases dealing with cheating, issues with custody, domestic violence and more.
All this being said, there is one exception to this state law. This exception is known as vicarious consent and refers to recorded conversations between your spouse and your children. If the safety of your children is in question, then recorded conversations involving them, even if you are not there, might be allowed. Since you are responsible for the wellbeing of your children, tape recording may be legal even if none of the parties has given consent. However, there must be substantial evidence proving to a judge that your children were in danger in order to justify the use of a hidden tape recorder.
If you need to speak with an a family law attorney concerning spousal spying, contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
Often, when someone suspects their spouse of infidelity, they attempt to hack into their email account to confirm their suspicions. While this seems tempting, it is likely illegal and can lead to serious consequences. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, The North Carolina Electronic Surveillance Act, and N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-287 all protect against spousal spying and unauthorized access of email and stored communications.
Of key importance, the access must be unauthorized. Spouses often give their passwords to each other, or don’t protect their email accounts on joint computers, so that they may access important documents and other communications for each other. Giving your spouse permission to access your email for these purposes is legal and acceptable. If a spouse, however, exceeds the permission you have provided them, and accesses your email account beyond the scope of your permission, they may have violated the law, and the stored communications may be protected.
Even if access is unauthorized, the electronic communications that your spouse has accessed must likely be held in electronic storage for the law to protect you. An email that is stored on a computer’s hard drive, for example, may not have the same protections as an email that is saved in your Internet Service Provider’s account such as Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail. Emails that are stored in your Internet Service Provider account are considered electronic storage and are protected against unauthorized access.
If your spouse has hacked into your email account and retrieved stored communications without permission, you may have an action against them for invasion of privacy. If you wish to discuss spousal spying or potential invasion of privacy claims, contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.