In many adversarial contexts, it can be tempting to surreptitiously access the contents of smart phones, laptops, email, and social media accounts, including messaging. A wealth of pertinent information usually resides in such devices and applications. Before doing any such thing, we urge people to speak with a lawyer. With certain exceptions, most Tennessee residents will be advised to refrain, mainly due to two laws: the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 and Tennessee’s Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act.

Violations of these laws can result in a criminal charge, civil penalties, and other avoidable complications (even if the snooping is outsourced). In essence, if someone, say a spouse, has a justifiable expectation of privacy in their electronic communications, the other spouse may not access those communications without authorization (absent a subpoena, court order, or search warrant). Along these same lines, it is usually illegal in Tennessee for someone to put a GPS tracking device on a vehicle without the consent of ALL beneficial owners.

On the other hand, physical surveillance, of the type we conduct and provide, is almost always legal and the results are admissible in court. Before deciding to digitally snoop, spy or eavesdrop on a current or former spouse, employee, partner, or other party, get legal advice. And keep in mind the lawful –and often enlightening– means available to you and/or your lawyer to advance your cause.

(Image courtesy of Maxim Ilyahov)