Have you Been Charged with Eavesdropping, Surveillance, or Intercepting Communication that Invades the Privacy of Another in Georgia?
Americans value our privacy and often worry about whether we are being eavesdropped on or surveyed without permission. The right to privacy is alluded to in the fourth amendment to the US Constitution which states “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects…”. Georgia expanded on that privacy right and included that it is unlawful to eavesdrop or spy on other people. This is a severe crime, and if you or a loved one has been charged with this offense, you need legal representation. The Offices of Lawson and Berry and their team of Georgia Criminal Defense Attorneys have over 50 combined years of experience. Contact our offices today.
There are numerous ways that a person can violate O.C.G.A. §16-11-62.
- By intentionally overhearing, transmitting, recording or attempting to overhear, transmit, or record the private conversation of another that originates in any public place;
- By using a device to observe, photograph, or record the activities of another that occur in a private place out of public view without the consent of the persons being observed;
- By going on or about the premises of another or any private place for the purpose of invading the privacy of others by eavesdropping on their conversations or secretly observing their activities;
- By intentionally and secretly trying to intercept by the use of any device, instrument, or apparatus the contents of a message sent by telephone, telegraph, letter, or by any other means of private communication;
- By divulging to any unauthorized person or authority the content or substance of a private message;
- By selling, giving, or distributing, without legal authority, any photograph, videotape, or recording of the activities of another which occur in any private place and out of public view without the consent of all persons observed.
One thing that is interesting to note is that Georgia law does not prohibit the recording of a conversation by one of the actual parties. As long as one of the parties to a conversation knows that they are recording, then it is acceptable. What is not allowed is for a third party to record a recording between two people who are unaware they are being recorded. Shepperd v. Reid, 198 Ga. App. 703, (1991).
Georgia Case Law on Eavesdropping, Surveillance, or Intercepting Communication
A Georgia man was convicted for unlawful eavesdropping and surveillance under O.C.G.A. §16-11-62. Hawkins v. State, 302 Ga. App. 84, (2010). The suspect peered through the first-floor bedroom window of an apartment and saw a teenage girl working on her computer in another room. He noticed her phone on her bed, so he climbed through the bedroom window, picked up the cell phone, and recorded her phone number. He then pulled his t-shirt over his head and walking into the other room and stood behind the girl. She heard a noise, turned around, saw the suspect, and screamed. The suspect immediately fled the apartment. During the trial, the suspect stated that he needed money so that was why he entered the apartment but he later admitted that he wanted the girl's phone number so he could call her. Therefore, the Court found there was sufficient evidence to convict him of unlawful eavesdropping and surveillance.
An example of a case where the intercepting communication was permitted can be found in Hawkins v. State. 307 Ga. App. 253, (2010). In that case, a sheriff's officer began communicating with a defendant using text messages on a cell phone that belonged to someone else, leading the defendant to believe that she was talking with the actual owner of the cell phone. Through their conversation, the defendant agreed to buy drugs from the officer, and they agreed to meet at a restaurant. At the restaurant, the officer arrested the defendant. During the trial, the defendant argued that the officer violated O.C.G.A. §16-11-62 because he did not have a right to text her from that number and also that his conduct was comparable to a wiretap interception of a telephone conversation. The Court disagreed with her argument because the officer did have permission to use the phone and he did not violate the statute. Therefore, the defendant's conviction was upheld.
With regard to minors, the Court has found in multiple cases that 16-year-olds have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their bedrooms and bathrooms, even from their parents. Snider v. State, 238 Ga. App. 55, (1999).
What has to be Proven to be Convicted
To be convicted of eavesdropping, surveillance, or intercepting communication between private parties in Georgia, the State must demonstrate that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This involves showing that the suspect acted with the intent to invade the privacy of another.
Penalty for Eavesdropping, Surveillance, or Intercepting Communication which Invades the Privacy of Another in Georgia
A conviction under O.C.G.A. §16-11-62 will be a felony conviction punished by prison between one and five years or a fine up to $10,000.00, or both.
Although felony convictions carry prison terms or fines, the consequences stretch even beyond that. Having a felony conviction on your record can affect you obtaining employment, credit, housing, etc. While it may seem like a minor crime, the consequences are severe.
Unintentionally eavesdropping or intercepting communication: Any evidence that you did not have the intent to invade on a private conversation could help get your charges dropped.
I overheard a private conversation, but I didn't do anything with that information: The statute provides that the accused must divulge private information in some manner. If you did not share that information in any way, that could greatly benefit your case.
Consent: You had consent from the parties to listen in to the conversation or record it. Any proof of consent from one or both of the parties would negate the charge of eavesdropping.
What are not Defenses in Georgia
I didn't mean to eavesdrop: Even if you didn't intentionally eavesdrop or intercept communication but you then chose to sell or divulge the private communication, then you will be convicted because you intentionally sold or disclosed the information.
A felony conviction is not something to be taken lightly. Getting the best representation from the very beginning is important. Lawson and Berry have over 50 years of criminal experience. Let their experience work for you today! They will work directly with you to build the best defense. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.