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Grand Rapids, MI 49512

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Electronic Snooping

Skilled Michigan Family Attorney

Technology has made it possible for us to be more connected to one another than ever before in history. Text messages can be transmitted instantly, phone calls can occur between individuals separated by thousands of miles, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter allow us to tell friends and others what we are doing at any given moment. While these advances help us stay connected to the people we like, they can also be used by people who want to keep track of us.

Electronic snooping is an increasingly common issue found in divorces and family law cases. Aside from the spurned ex-spouse, other interested parties in these cases can employ any number of means to catch private details about you in hopes of using that information against you in court.

Isn’t Snooping Against the Law?

It might be, depending on what the “snooping” consisted of and the parties involved. In particular, the following activities are generally prohibited by federal or Michigan state law:

  • Installing secret cameras in your residence or another’s residence in hopes of catching your spouse cheating or engaged in other similar behavior;
  • Recording a conversation, either through a passive listening device like a hidden recorder or a recording device planted on another person, to which you are not a party;
  • Placing a GPS tracking device on another’s vehicle unless you own the car in your name only; and
  • Accessing an e-mail account or social media account without the consent of the other person.
  • Using a keystroke logger to capture passwords and other digital information.

However, it is not considered snooping – and thus not illegal – for a person to:

  •      Install a home security device or camera that records activity in and around the home;
  •      Record a conversation the person recording is a party to; or
  •      Place a GPS device on the car used by a child where the parents own the vehicle.
  •      Monitor a computer or online account to which you have access and consent (the password).
  •      Mine metadata out of any file received or disclosed.
  •      Hire a private investigator to follow and use GPS tracking on a subject.

The Danger of Allowing Electronic Snooping

Allowing your information to be taken can be very dangerous to your case. This is because even if your information is taken or recorded illegally, it is not barred from being used to impeach (to show a lie) you or another witness. Further, keep in mind that as mentioned above, a private investigator can track and follow you with advanced methods.

You Have a Right to Be Free of Illegal Electronic Snooping

If you fear that you are being stalked online – that is, the other parent, your ex-spouse, or some other person – is harassing you electronically, you may be entitled to file for an order of protection against this individual. An order of protection would instruct the subject of the order to refrain from further engaging in harassing behavior. If the person continued to do so, it may be considered a crime and/or be punishable by the court’s contempt powers.

You Have a Right to Conduct Legal Electronic Discovery

More than ever, it is important to be able to prove that your opponent is lying to the court. With courts seeing increased caseload, they tend to have less time to investigate the truth. That is why concrete proof of another party’s actions is the key to a successful case. Using legal methods of digital discovery avoids the dangers of violating the law, while also securing your cases presentation to the court.

Beware of What You Put Online – It Can Come Back to Haunt You Later

In a family law case, just because some forms of electronic snooping is illegal does not mean that information you put online can never come into court. There are discovery methods whereby your spouse’s/the other parent’s attorney can obtain e-mails, social media posts, and other similar information legally.

The Grand Rapids family law firm of Van Den Heuvel Law Office is committed to helping clients embroiled in family law disputes protect their rights and legal interests. If you are concerned that your privacy may be in jeopardy – or if you are concerned that your own activity may be crossing a line – contact us at (616) 698-0000 for assistance.

Statutory and Other Links: MCL 750.539; 18 U.S.C. § 2511; Sullivan v. Gray, 117 Mich App 476; MCL 750.539

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