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Eavesdropping is a felony under New York Law. Many know that New York is known as a one-party recording state, meaning, that between two parties it only takes one to consent to conversations being recorded, but, what many do not know is that New York is also a state that criminalizes eavesdropping. Eavesdropping is a class E felony with a maximum penalty of 4 years in prison. How is eavesdropping different from simply recording a conversation? New York Penal Law 250.00 and 250.05 codify eavesdropping. A person is guilty of eavesdropping when he or she illegally wiretaps, uses a machine to listen in on a conversation, or uses hacking or another accessing a computer communication to obtain access to digital messages.

If you or someone you know has been charged with eavesdropping please call our experienced New York Criminal Attorneys today.

The following explanations describe some of the terms in the statute so that one can better understand the conduct that it prohibits.

  1. “Wiretaps” means having one’s telephone conversations be listened into by a third party without consent, except for when a telephone company does listens in.
  2. “Using a machine to listen in on a conversation” means listening in on a conversation or recording a conversation where at least one person has not consented to the third party listening in on the conversation.
  3. “Hacking or intercepting a computer communication to obtain access to digital messages” means getting a hold of and reading or listening to the contents of an electronic communication without consent of the sender or receiver.

As one can see the definitions of “wiretaps”, “uses a machine to listen in on a conversation” and “Hacking or intercepting a computer communication to obtain access to digital messages” are very similar. In fact, they are so similar that generally speaking, only the context changes. One is on the telephone, whereas the other is person to person, and the third refers to computer or cell phone communications.

The following is a descriptive example of criminally punishable eavesdropping. Harry is suspicious that Wendy, his wife, is having an affair with the gardener, Gary. Harry believes that his wife is taking Gary to a hotel in her car to conceal their affair. When Wendy is asleep, Harry places a listening device in her car that transmits recorded conversations to Harry’s cell phone. Harry’s suspicions are correct.

One day when Wendy and Gary are driving to the hotel they discover the listening device. Wendy turns it over to the police, thinking that perhaps someone has been spying on her and she is very frightened. Once the police forensically examine the data of the listening device, they determine it is sending messages to Harry’s phone. Harry used a machine to listen to conversations that he was not a party to and that Wendy did not give him consent to listen to. Harry is guilty of wiretapping.

Installing a keylogger on an unsuspecting person’s cellphone or computer would also be another example of criminal conduct under the eavesdropping statute. A keylogger logs the victim’s keystrokes and sends them to the perpetrator. In some cases keylogger software may expose private screen captures of the victim’s computer or phone screen. Keyloggers can be installed by simply putting a USB device into a computer or opening an email. Since the victim obviously does not consent to this intrusion into their electronic communications this offensive invasion of privacy would be considered eavesdropping.

If you or someone you know has been charged with eavesdropping please call our experienced criminal defense lawyers. We may be able to improve the outcome of the case.

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