More Spouses Keeping Tabs on One Another With High-Tech Spying Devices
Many Americans who fear their marriage may be in trouble are turning to new methods to confirm their suspicions. In the past, if someone was concerned that his or her spouse was having an affair, there were limited options available to determine the truth. For instance, the spouse could hire a private detective or follow the other spouse by car — both of which require a significant investment of time or money.
These days, new technologies have provided an outlet for suspicious spouses to take matters into their own hands. While the devices may be affordable and relatively easy to use, in some states, people using these techniques are discovering there are serious legal consequences for doing so. Consequently, it is wise for spouses considering a divorce to understand the legal issues involved in using these devices.
How are Spouses Spying on Their Significant Others?
Not surprisingly, one of the most common ways in which spouses are spying on one another is through electronic communication. The ways in which spouses spy through these communications vary greatly.
In the most innocent cases, a spouse may read an email message left open on a shared home computer. Others may search through their significant other's text messages stored on his or her smartphone. Some spouses have taken spying much further, however. For instance, advanced computer software programs are available that monitor activity and track every keystroke made on a computer.
In a Pennsylvania case, a man allegedly installed such a program, which cost him only $97, on his home computer. His wife discovered the program, and he has since been charged with unlawfully using a computer, among other charges.
In addition to spying on different methods of communication, another common spying technique is the installation of GPS devices on a spouse's vehicle. Whereas, in the past, a spouse would have to physically follow the other in a vehicle, small GPS devices are now available to attach to vehicles. In addition, the devices are inexpensive, with some costing less than $200.
Spying on Your Spouse in Washington State
States across the country have come to different conclusions regarding what amounts to a reasonable expectation of privacy within a marriage. Courts have relied on both federal and state laws to reach their decisions.
Spouses who use recording devices to monitor their significant other have the potential to be charged under the Federal Wiretap Act. Some U.S. circuit courts have found such monitoring to be in violation of the act. The Ninth Circuit, which includes Washington state, has found that the act does not prohibit recordings conducted within the home.
Spouses who monitor the other are also at risk of being charged with stalking. Under Washington law, stalking occurs when a person "intentionally and repeatedly harasses" or follows someone else, causing fear in the other person. The individual need not intend to cause fear. If the person reasonably should have known the other individual was afraid or intimidated, it can still be found that the individual was guilty of stalking.
As the laws across the states are inconsistent, it is best to consult with a skilled Washington divorce attorney prior to taking any such action against your spouse. Conversely, if you believe your spouse is using spy techniques to monitor your behavior, a family law attorney can best advise you on your rights.