It has 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, it is more likely that the spying is in fact taking place. Here’s a primer on a spouse’s privacy rights under the North Carolina Electronic Surveillance Act.
Common methods of spying
There are ways to track your automobile using a GPS system, you can be “bugged” and recorded, you can be videotaped and you can have your e-mails read or intercepted by having spyware installed on your cellphone or computer that allows your spouse to monitor your e-mails and website browsing remotely. A nefarious spying capability is keystroke logging which allows your spouse to capture each keystroke you enter on your phone or computer to track communications and your passwords, including to financial accounts. Of course, the other party may be following you or having a private detective follow you.
Why is my spouse 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 such as a 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, much of the time, it is because your spouse is suspicious of you having an affair.
How to detect and stop spousal spying
There are a number of methods to detect and stop the spying. Anti-spyware and anti-virus programs such as Norton, Webroot and McAfee can be installed to detect and eliminate existing spyware programs and can stop new attempts at insertion. There are anti-keylogging software packages such as Zemma Antilogger and Keyscrambler that can detect and eliminate a program tracking your keystrokes. To protect your cellphone, update the operating system regularly and and revert to factory settings, but remember to save your data to the I-cloud or backup first.
The North Carolina Electronic Surveillance Act
If you have detected and terminated the spying you can stop there. However, there are other actions you can take. The North Carolina Electronic Surveillance Act located at N.C.G.S. 15A-286 et al. defines electronic surveillance and provides that”
(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:
- The device is affixed to, or otherwise transmits a signal through, a wire, cable, or other like connection used in wire communications; or
- 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.
What are the penalties of spying?
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, punitive damages and litigation costs and attorney fees.
Could evidence obtained from spying hurt you in court?
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 used to hurt you in your case.
What type of legal options do I have in cases of spousal spying?
The attorneys at Weaver, Bennett and Bland can assist you whether you have been a victim of spousal spying or you have been accused of spousal spying.
About the Author: Bill Whittaker
Bill is an Attorney and Partner at Weaver, Bennett & Bland in Matthews, North Carolina. He is a distinguished family law attorney with over thirty years’ experience in helping his clients navigate difficult periods in their lives.