Imagine that you suspect your spouse is cheating on you, but you are not sure. You start to snoop to look for proof. In the process, you decide to read your spouse's email. Stop! That is a crime. Just ask Leon Walker (33) who is facing felony charges for computer misuse because he read his wife's emails after his wife filed for divorce. Clara Walker, the spouse, also claims that he installed tracking devices to monitor her e-mail activities.

Leon Walker is scheduled to go to trial in February of 2011 for using his wife's password to get into her Gmail account. Mr. Walker said he went through his wife's e-mails but did not believe he had broken the law. He is arguing that she allowed him to read her e-mails before; she gave him the passwords before. Still, the Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Sydney Turner said the charge is justified. Mr. Walker faces up to five years in prison if convicted.


Family courts know that tensions are high during divorces, and so is the risk of domestic violence. As a result, to try to prevent incidents of domestic violence, in most states, once an action for divorce is filed, the Court will usually have an automatic order in place that prohibits both spouses from opening the other spouse's mail, reading their emails, listening in on telephone calls and other types of snooping and prying behaviors. Even if it is not otherwise illegal in your state to do these things, if the Court has issued an order prohibiting this type of conduct, it can still get you in very hot water with the judge and you may find that you are in contempt of court which in some circumstances could result in fines, jail time, and could even affect the outcome of the divorce. As tempting as it may be to spy on your spouse, it is better to leave those issues to your lawyer.


Don't do it. That is clearly a federal crime.


 The issues of the right to privacy, even within a marriage, and the concerns that spying on a spouse may be illegal are not unique to reading a spouse's email. The same issues come up when a spouse secretly listens to or installs a wire tap to listen in on telephone conversations or installs a device to secretly record those calls. In some states such as Nevada, it is illegal to secretly record a telephone conversation even if you are the one making the call. In other states, such as Texas, if you are a party to the conversation, you can record a telephone conversation without telling any of the other people on the call (This is known as single party consent). However, even in single party consent states such as Texas, it is illegal to tap into a telephone call and secretly record it.


 It is currently illegal to install this software on a phone without the permission of the phone owner. However, the issue is unresolved as to whether the owner of the cell phone account can install cell phone spyware on a cell phone that he allows his spouse to use without informing the spouse about the existence of the spyware.


 Keystroke loggers allow you to record every key stroke made on a computer. This would allow you to know everything a person types while online without the person even being aware that you are monitoring their communications. Needless to say, key logging devices and software are no more illegal than microphones and recording software, the same laws that apply to phone communications, generally apply to electronic communications as well.


It is legal in most states for a spouse to install a GPS tracking device on the car that your spouse drives, IF your name is also on the title. You should never install such a device on a car that does not belong to you. In addition, you should check with an attorney to determine if this activity is legal in your state before you do it, especially if you live in an area that is close to another state as the activity may be legal in one state, but not the other.


While the U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled on the issue, other Courts have, and those courts have been allowing federal agents to secretly plant a GPS locator on your car and to use the GPS locator to track your movements even without a warrant.

The Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals held in the case of USA v. Juan Pineda-Moreno it was not an unreasonable search and seizure for government agents to secretly install a GPS device on Pineda-Morena's vehicle that was parked in his driveway because the driveway was not enclosed and was open to passersby like delivery men and neighborhood children.

The Ninth Circuit sets the law in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, but its decision, although persuasive to judges in other states, is not controlling on other states.