Snooping Spouse Law in Connecticut – Bugs, Spyware & GPS Tracking Devices

I get calls often from husbands and wives embroiled in nasty divorces who want to know whether it is legal to secretly record their spouses in their homes, on the phones, in their cars, or elsewhere.  These spying spouses want to know whether it’s legal for them to install spyware on their spouse’s computers, their iphones, or their ipads, so they can monitor what their spouses are doing online and who they are talking to.  Can they install GPS tracking devices on their cars without violating the law?   Can they install nanny cams in their own home?  The answers are not straightforward.

Technology is moving at lightning speed. Connecticut state and federal privacy laws are trying to keep up with technology but it’s almost impossible.  As a result, if you are not careful about following these ever-changing and ever-evolving spying spouse laws, then you could find yourself arrested.

This is the first of a three-part blog series that I’ve prepared to try to cover the basics in the emerging area of Connecticut spying and snooping spouse law.  No online article, however, can substitute for consulting a Connecticut criminal lawyer in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Westport or Fairfield who is experienced in the laws of spyware, surveillance, bugging devices and nanny cams.  Every legal situation is different and the information in these articles should not and cannot be relied upon as legal advice.  Thus, I strongly advise you to contact a top Connecticut criminal lawyer or attorney experienced in spyware, surveillance and GPS tracking law before engaging in any of the activities discussed below, such as reading your spouse’s emails or installing spyware on any third party computers.

In other words, don’t try this at home (until you understand the following legal consequences).…

Part I – Wiretapping, Eavesdropping & Voyeurism

Eavesdropping

The legality of recording and wiretapping conversations is governed by Connecticut’s Recording and Eavesdropping Statutes, codified in  C.G.S. § 53a-189.  Connecticut law requires at least one party’s consent to record an in-person conversation.  For telephone conversations, the consent of all of the parties is required.  Such consent needs to be received prior to the actual recording, and the consent should be in writing or recorded verbally.  Alternatively, the warning can be recorded and provided to all parties prior to the recorded call (as is the case when calling airlines, credit card companies and securities brokerage companies).  Eavesdropping is a Class D felony and is punishable by up to five years in prison.  The Connecticut Eavesdropping lawyers at Mark Sherman Law are well-versed in these statutes and can walk you through what devices are legally permitted to be used and how to properly obtain the consent needed so you don’t find yourself in legal hot water.

Voyeurism

Voyeurism is defined in C.G.S. § 53a-189a and prohibits the audio or video recording of another person without consent where the recorded individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy.  With the popularity of iphone video recording devices, Connecticut police and prosecutors are beginning to bring more voyeurism charges against individuals who secretly video and audio record individuals with the malicious intent to embarrass, humiliate, or bully them.  These scenarios arise in high locker rooms or even behind adult bedroom doors where husbands and wives believe their spouses are cheating on them.  So even if you are trying to “out” your unfaithful spouse, you could still be committing a crime if you are engaged in criminal voyeurism.  Voyeurism is a Class D felony as well, carrying with it a maximum punishment of 5 years prison time.

Connecticut law has gone a step further in preventing the dissemination of voyeuristic material.  And even if you are not the individual responsible for the actual recording of the material, you can still be held criminally responsible if you take possession of the voyeuristic recordings and distribute the recordings online or offline.  This is also a felony under C.G.S. § 53a-189b.  Kids and adults alike should take notice of this law, as forwarding saucy video clips to friends and colleagues can clearly escalate from fun to felony.  So if you have been accused of voyeurism, you should contact an experienced Connecticut voyeurism attorney at Mark Sherman Law to fight these charges.

Nanny Cams

The exception to the rules above apply to nanny cams placed in your home; however, the cameras are only permitted to video record, not audio record.  (You must get consent to audio record anyone in your home).  Also, to be legally acceptable, the purpose for implementing the nanny cams must be for safety and not be maliciously or sexually motivated, nor can they be placed in places in the house where someone has a reasonable expectation of privacy (such as any bathroom or a nanny’s bedroom).

Consulting A Connecticut Criminal Eavesdropping & Voyeurism Lawyer

If you are considering recording your spouse or a third party, you need to be very careful and knowledgeable of the rules and boundaries outlined by Connecticut and federal law.  Those are two separate and distinct bodies of law—what may be legal in Connecticut may still be prohibited by the federal government.  For these reasons, it is critical you consult a Connecticut eavesdropping, wiretapping and voyeurism lawyer before engaging in any of these activities.  The stakes are too high and usually once you create a recording, there is a digital or electronic footprint created that leads law enforcement directly to your home, computer or handheld device.  And if you are in the middle of a contentious divorce, you should also consult your divorce lawyer, as you should expect that whatever snooping you do will eventually come out at deposition or trial.  You want to make sure whatever you do is consistent with your divorce lawyer’s case strategy.

Part II of this Snooping Spouse Series – Computer Spyware

In a few weeks, I will write about another emerging area of cybersnooping—that is, computer and phone spyware and the legality of installing and using it on your spouse’s computers, iphones and ipads.  I will also discuss the criminality of reading your spouse’s emails, breaking through password protected files, and copying and printing out files belonging to your spouse.  Check back in a few weeks for the next installment.

Contact Us Today

Until then, if you have been charged with Eavesdropping or Voyeurism in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, Westport, New Canaan or anywhere else in Connecticut, or if you have general questions about these issues, contact an Eavesdropping or Voyeurism lawyer at Mark Sherman Law today to learn how we can help you. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at (203) 358-4700.