The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) Act of 1986 made unauthorized access to and interception of the private communications of others illegal, and today this can include listening to, recording, or reading communications from traditional telephone wiretaps whether on “landline” or cordless phones, email, voicemail, pagers, chat logs, and video, even if the other person is your spouse. If you can imagine any other way of “electronic” eavesdropping or recording, just assume it’s also on the list. For instance, “guessing” your spouse’s email password and reading messages there could be ruled an invasion of privacy.
Just this month, an Ex-Brooklyn Prosecutor was convicted of illegal surveillance and was disbarred. Tara Lenich admitted to cutting judges signatures from documents and pasting them on applications for wiretaps in order to eavesdrop on her love interest. Lenich originally faced 20 counts of possession of a forged instrument and two counts of eavesdropping, and last spring, pleaded guilty to two charges of illegal wiretapping, a federal charge for which she could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. She also gets to deal with a civil suit that was filed by the victim earlier this month. The victim impact statement claims Lenich had “poisoned [her] workplace against [her]”. The victim claims she was forced to resign from the Brooklyn DA’s Office after working there for 11 years because of the “humiliating looks and behind-the-back comments” she received from coworkers due to Lenich’s actions. She seeks damages.
In Tennessee, electronic surveillance, spying, and snooping can certainly have legal consequences. Under the Tennessee Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act, it is a Class D felony to intentionally intercept or access unauthorized communications, and this includes getting someone else to do it for you. If you violate this law, you could be fined $100 a day for each day of violation or $10,000, whichever is greater. The court could additionally grant punitive damages and attorney’s fees. In Tennessee, you CAN record a conversation with another person without that person’s knowledge or consent, because Tennessee is a “one party” state in this matter. Other states, however, are “two-party” or “all-party” states, meaning that all parties have to know that a conversation is being recorded. Be aware that calling from Tennessee and recording a conversation with someone who happens to live in a two-party state could get you into serious legal trouble.
- Are you thinking about getting a divorce or are in the middle of contentious divorce proceedings?
- Do you think that if you could only present the judge with some hard evidence of your spouse’s bad behavior you might get a better settlement, or custody, or more child support?
Talk with a lawyer before you consider electronic snooping; this might save you from doing something you might regret for a long time.
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Ryan K McFarland • firstname.lastname@example.org • 1 (931) 516-9009