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Last Updated on: 28th July 2023, 07:15 pm
Are you suspicious of your partner’s fidelity and thinking of spying on them? It’s not uncommon for spouses to resort to covert surveillance to catch their significant other in the act. But before you invest in gadgets like hidden cameras and recording devices, it’s important to know the legal implications of such actions, especially in New York.
Recently, a friend, Jenn, shared with me the creative ways wives spy on their husbands. From secret recording devices, fake smoke detectors to cameras cleverly disguised as children’s toys, the lengths people go to keep tabs on their partners are astounding. As a criminal lawyer, I know these tools are commonly used by law enforcement, but it never occurred to me that people would use them in their own homes.
While these surveillance devices are readily available for purchase on Amazon and other online retailers, their use is subject to strict regulations in New York. Two types of surveillance devices are available: audio and video recording devices.
The Penal Law’s Section 250.05 outlines the state’s Eavesdropping provision, which prohibits wiretapping or mechanical overhearing of a conversation without the consent of at least one party on the call. Similarly, intercepting or accessing electronic communication is illegal without consent. The use of secret audio recording devices is therefore illegal in New York, unless it’s done with the consent of at least one of the parties involved. Violating this law is a Class “E” felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.
In contrast, video surveillance laws are less restrictive in New York. However, it’s essential to ensure that your video spy plan is lawful before installing cameras in your home.
One crucial factor to consider when setting up video surveillance is the location of the cameras. Some parts of your home, like the bedroom or bathroom, are off-limits because people expect privacy in those areas. The Penal Law’s Section 250.40 outlines the definitions of terms for unlawful surveillance, defining a place with an expectation of privacy as a place where a reasonable person would believe that they could fully disrobe in privacy.
Unlawful surveillance charges in New York are located in Sections 250.45 and 250.50 of the Penal Law. Unlawful surveillance in the Second Degree, under Section 250.45(1), has the elements of intent to amuse, entertain, profit, degrade, or abuse another person, intentional use or installation of a secret device, viewing or recording a person dressing or undressing or intimate parts, and doing so in a place and time where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. This charge is a Class “E” felony. Unlawful surveillance in the First Degree, under Section 250.50, has the same elements as Second Degree, with the additional requirement that the person had a prior conviction for unlawful surveillance in the First or Second Degree in the past 10 years. This charge is a Class “D” felony.
In conclusion, while the use of spy gadgets may seem like a convenient way to keep tabs on your partner’s activities, it’s vital to ensure that you don’t violate any laws in the process. Be aware of New York’s strict laws on audio recording and understand the expectations of privacy in different areas of your home before setting up video surveillance.
If you’re going through a divorce or considering one, you might be tempted to collect evidence against your spouse to help your case. But before you start recording phone calls or tracking their movements, it’s important to understand the laws surrounding evidence gathering in New York.
New York is a one-party consent state, meaning that if you’re part of a phone conversation, you can legally record it as long as one person is aware and consents to the recording. This means you can record calls with your spouse and use them as evidence in your divorce. However, if your spouse is talking to a third party without your consent, it’s illegal to record the call.
If you’re a party to a text conversation, the messages are admissible in court. But if you obtain texts from your spouse’s phone without their consent, it violates privacy laws even if the phone is not password protected.
You can videotape anyone without their consent as long as it’s not considered voyeuristic. However, you can’t videotape someone undressing, in a bedroom, or in sexual or intimate areas of the body without their knowledge or consent. But it’s legal to videotape your spouse in areas of the home other than the bedroom or bathroom.
Publicly available information on social media or news sites is fair game, but accessing private email or messaging is illegal under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. Even if you have your spouse’s password, you can’t access their account without their permission. Jointly held accounts are an exception.
Accessing your spouse’s separate financial, investment, or retirement accounts without permission is a privacy violation. It’s also illegal to access their medical records. Talk to your attorney, who can subpoena all relevant records for use in your case.
Placing a GPS tracker on your spouse’s car is legal unless they’ve told you not to. But installing spyware on their computer or phone is illegal, as is recording their keystrokes. These actions are considered an invasion of privacy.
Copying your spouse’s private paper records without permission is a privacy violation, but it’s unlikely to be prosecuted. Any documents of this nature would be discoverable in the divorce, so you would legally have access to them through that avenue.
In general, it can be risky to spy on your spouse. Speak with your attorney if you have concerns about evidence gathering. They can help you understand what is legal, what to avoid, and when to call in professionals for assistance.
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