Tonight's post pondering the legality of snooping for evidence was
written by our Marietta and Atlanta Family Law Attorney, Jeannine Lowery.
To snoop or not to snoop? That might not be exactly the question Shakespeare
posed, but if you're in a relationship where trust is an issue, it
might be a good question to ask.
If you've ever had doubts about just what your spouse is doing on their
phone or computer late at night, you might have been tempted to snoop
into their email accounts, social media pages or text message chains.
While you may be seeking only answers or reassurance, what you might get
in Georgia is criminal and civil punishment. And even if you do find something
incriminating about your spouse by snooping, your lawyer might not be
able to use it in court.
In 2009, the Georgia legislature passed the
Georgia Computer Systems Protection Act, protecting the privacy of data stored on computers and computers networks.
This law carries civil remedies, fines, imprisonment, and possibly big
implications for your divorce.
"Computer Trespass," is a crime involving the use of a computer
without authority and either temporarily or permanently deleting or removing
data. O.C.G.A. Â§ 16-9-93(b). The term "without authority"
basically means without permission, or exceeding the permission granted
by the owner of the computer network or computer. This means snooping
into your spouse's computer to delete or copy their emails without
permission might be a crime.
"Computer Invasion of Privacy," involves using a computer with
the intent to "examine" another person's personal data without
authority to do so. O.C.G.A. Â§ 16-9-93(c). That means that
just reading an email without permission on your spouse's computer
could violate the law. Similarly, logging into your spouse's social
media page, on their computer, and snooping around without permission,
is a bad idea.
If you're convicted of the crimes of computer trespass or computer
invasion of privacy you can face fines of up to $50,000 and imprisonment
of up to 15 years. Also, this law allows your spouse to bring a civil
suit for damages and even recover the cost of bringing the suit.
Even if criminal charges or civil law suits are never brought, if you obtain
evidence of your spouse's infidelity illegally, your lawyer might
not be able to use it in your divorce.
So bottom line: snooping is not worth the risk.
If you can't trust your spouse, it is probably time to call a lawyer to consider your options.
Like Shakespeare said, "Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none."
And among the few you can trust, you ought to count your lawyer.