A spouse’s privacy rights under the North Carolina Electronic Surveillance Act
It’s become more and more common over recent years for one spouse to complain that the other is spying on him or her. With the availability of inexpensive programs and hardware, these feelings are increasingly true. The Charlotte family law attorneys at Weaver, Bennett & Bland, P.A. put together a list of the most common questions our clients ask about this new trend in “spousal spying.”
Common methods of spying
Modern-day spying involves several methods: you can be “bugged” and recorded, you can be videotaped, and you can have your e-mails read or intercepted by spyware that’s installed on your cellphone or computer, allowing your spouse to monitor your e-mails and website browsing history. A particularly nefarious spying program is a keystroke logger, which allows your spouse to capture each keystroke you enter on your phone or computer. This allows him or her to track your exact communications and your passwords, including financial accounts, e-mail accounts, and social media accounts.
Why is he spying on me?
Once you know you are being spied upon, one of the first questions is why. There are numerous explanations for the spying: gaining an advantage in a marital dispute or custody action, determining if you are in fact doing what you say you are or are supposed to be doing, and plain paranoia on the part of the spying party. However, many times a spouse decides to spy because they are concerned about infidelity.
How to detect and stop spousal spying
There are a number of methods to detect and stop spying. Anti-spyware and anti-virus programs such as Norton, Webroot, and McAfee can be installed to detect and eliminate existing spyware programs. These programs can also stop attempts at installing new spyware software. There are also anti-keylogging software packages such as Zemma Antilogger and Keyscrambler that can detect and eliminate programs that track your keystrokes. To protect your cellphone, update the operating system regularly and make sure to restore your phone to factory settings on a regular basis. However, remember to save or backup your date before wiping your phone.
The North Carolina Electronic Surveillance Act
If you have detected and terminated spying, you can certainly stop there. However, there are other actions you can take. The North Carolina Electronic Surveillance Act specifically defines electronic surveillance and states:
(a) … a person is guilty of a Class H felony if, without the consent of at least one party to the communication, the person:
(1) Willfully intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept, any wire, oral, or electronic communication.
(2) Willfully uses, endeavors to use, or procures any other person to use or endeavor to use any electronic, mechanical, or other device to intercept any oral communication when:
a. The device is affixed to, or otherwise transmits a signal through, a wire, cable, or other like connection used in wire communications; or
b. The device transmits communications by radio, or interferes with the transmission of such communications.
(3) Willfully discloses, or endeavors to disclose, to any other person the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through violation of this Article; or
(4) Willfully uses, or endeavors to use, the contents of any wire or oral communication, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through the interception of a wire or oral communication in violation of this Article.
A class H felony is punishable with up to 25 months of active jail time for each offense. Civil damages are authorized to be paid to the offended party; $100.00 a day for each day of the violation or $1,000.00—whichever is higher—plus punitive damages, litigation costs, and attorney fees are recoverable.
Note that information obtained illegally cannot be used against you in court. However, if the ill-gotten information leads to other information which cannot be traced to the illegally obtained data, then, such information may be utilized to hurt you in your case.
If you believe your spouse has been spying on you or if you’ve been the victim of a violation of the North Carolina Electronic Surveillance Act, contact the skilled Charlotte divorce attorneys at Weaver, Bennett & Bland.
William G. Whittaker is a partner and family law attorney at Weaver, Bennett & Bland, P.A. Contact William at Weaver, Bennett & Bland, P.A. at (704) 844-1400. The information contained in this article is general in nature and not to be taken as legal advice nor to establish an attorney-client relationship between the reader and William G. Whittaker or the law firm of Weaver, Bennett & Bland, P.A.
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