It used to be that if you wanted to get your hands on walkie talkies, surveillance equipment or even a tracking device of some sort you would you have to go to the mall and walk into a Radio Shack or similar store and pay a hefty price.
In today’s world you need only to log on to the internet and utilize any number of online retailers or other websites that allow you to buy just about anything your heart desires. If you want to keep tabs on your spouse that is now relatively easy. The question remains- should you do it?
With the ready availability of GPS tracking devices and computer related spyware it almost seems too easy to know exactly what it is your spouse is up to. If you believe your spouse to be engaging in behavior that is harmful either to your marriage or to your children then the temptation may be there to engage in some amateur spying. Unsurprisingly, there are laws that govern the surveillance of a private individual in regard to a family law case.
Evolution of surveillance law in the United States
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in addition to changes and improvements in technology brought about newer versions of laws that were previously on the books. Most of us are aware of the law known as the Patriot Act.
The federal government had never before known the ability to track and store the phone calls, electronic messages and other data of its citizens. The Federal Communications Commission has also put forth regulations that mandate cell phone carrier to track the calls of its subscribers.
To do so, GPS technology has been implemented into our cell phones. If you and I have the ability to tell where our family members are using this technology, it’s a good bet that the government has been able to do the same for much longer.
These laws are federal statutes that apply to U.S. citizens generally and not specifically to any state of the union. Federal law prohibits any person from intercepting any form of communication without a court order allowing them to do so or without the consent of one of the parties to the conversation. Emails, video and tape recorded conversations are all covered by this law.
A peculiar loophole exists, however, in that emails are not allowed to be intercepted in the short amount of time between when the email is sent and when it is received but the law says nothing of obtaining an email from a hard-drive. Of course a person may be violating another law in doing so but would not be in violation of the Wiretap Act, as it is known.
Consent matters when it comes to recorded conversations
The Wiretap Act excludes situations where consent is provided either directly, vicariously or through a spouse. Basically, if one party to a conversation gives consent for the conversation to be recorded there is no violation of the Wiretap Act.
There are some states that require both participants in the conversation to give consent, however. Texas is not one of those states but if you are speaking with a person who is not in Texas this is something relevant to keep in mind. Finally, Texas does not recognize a spousal consent exception that is provided for in the federal law.
The Stored Communications Act and its applicability to Texas Family Law cases
Hacking of emails has progressively become more prevalent in divorce cases that the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles. Whether or not there is statistical analysis to back this assertion up I don’t know but it certainly seems to be true. If a spouse can gain an advantage by logging into their partner’s email account without permission there is certainly the temptation to do so when the stakes are high enough.
The Stored Communications Act takes into account accessing electronic information that is stored in a hard drive or in the “Cloud” without the account holder’s permission. It is a crime under this law to intentionally access a server that is owned by an internet service provider or by a phone company. These same companies cannot share any stored communication data with a person who does not have permission to obtain that data.
The state of Texas has its own laws that govern the issues of wiretapping, recording conversations and “hacking” of email and other communications data. One “old school” method of keeping tabs on a person is placing a tracking device on their vehicle. We’ve all seen movies or television shows where this occurs and may even know people in our own lives who has engaged in this sort of behavior.
This is very much illegal in Texas, so it’s obviously best not to do it in the Lone Star State. The same can be said of accessing an individual computer or server without the owner’s permission.
Laws on surveillance may change, but how you choose a lawyer does not
With changes in technology come changes in laws. That much is apparent from our discussion today. As the government and the private sector develop new methods to keep tabs on one another, the law will have to evolve or be left behind in protecting the privacy rights of you and I in all areas of our lives.
Family law cases are no different. While it is increasingly easy to get a hold of information that is not intended for our eyes or ears, we should think twice before acting before consulting with an experienced attorney.
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC understand the issues that you face in your divorce or child custody case are critically important and the need for strong and effective representation is just as critical. Our office knows the law and how to apply it to your and your family’s advantage. If you have any questions about surveillance law in Texas and its potential impact on a family law case please contact our office.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Spying on your spouse - What to know in a Texas Divorce
- The Dirty Trick of Spousal Spying in a Texas Divorce
- Dos and Don'ts Regarding Electronic Communications in a Texas Divorce
- Legalities of spying on a child's cell phone in Texas
- Can I Sue My Ex for Hacking My Computer in My Texas Divorce?
- Cell Phones, Mail, Computers, Spying on your Spouse, and Privacy Rights in a Spring, Texas Divorce
- Do I Need to Change My Passwords for a Divorce in Texas?
- How Social Media Can Hurt You in Divorce
- Why do divorces cost so much in Texas?
- How Can I Get My Spouse to Pay My Attorney's Fees in a Texas Divorce?
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Kingwood Divorce Lawyer
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with ar Kingwood, TX Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.
A divorce lawyer in Kingwood TX is skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.