Catherine Zang is suing her ex-husband, Joseph Zang, and his attorney, Mary Jill Donovan, for wiretapping and invasion of privacy. Catherine Zang is claiming that her ex-husband installed monitoring devices in their home and spied on her with a hidden video camera and microphone. She alleges that her ex-husband installed these secret cameras in order to gain leverage during their divorce proceedings.
Federal Wiretapping Laws
Do Federal Wiretapping Laws apply when a Husband is Spying on his Wife or Vice Versa? According to federal wiretapping laws, a person may not intercept wire, oral, or electronic communications, unless one of the parties in the conversation is aware of the recording. This means that a husband is allowed to tap into his wife’s conversation only if he is also a party to the conversation. As such, Joseph Zang shouldn’t be allowed to wiretap Catherine’s conversations that were not with him, as he allegedly did.
Penalties for Wiretapping
- Civil penalties up to $10,000, plus punitive damages and attorney fees
- Criminal fine of $250,000 and up to five years of jail time
Invasion of Privacy
Intrusion upon seclusion is a common law invasion of privacy tort. It is an act of intruding into the seclusion of another that would be objectionable to a reasonable person. Also, the plaintiff does not need to prove special damages to win in a claim for invasion of privacy. It is enough for them to show emotional distress. Most would agree that a reasonable person would object to having a hidden video camera placed in their home. Mr. Zang likely knew this to be objectionable as the devices were hidden.
A microphone was placed behind their walls, recording her conversations in her living room and kitchen. Software was installed on her computer copying her emails and instant messages. It should make no difference that the ex-husband did the spying in his own house. And simply being married does not give you the right to spy on your spouse’s emails, phone calls, and social encounters.
What to Do if You Have Been the Victim of Spousal Wiretapping
Privacy and wiretapping laws are ever changing and there has been a lack of clarity and consistency among federal courts. It is best to speak to an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable about wiretapping and privacy torts. A family law attorney may be most helpful in spousal wiretapping cases, as spying on ones spouse has become an unfortunate, but common occurrence in a society with rising divorce rates and rapidly improving technology.
Did Mr. Zang do anything wrong by wiretapping his house?
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