That tiny model airplane of past decades has evolved into what is known now as a drone. Drones have been proliferating since 2009 and is widely applied in many areas, including logistics, military surveillance, police investigations, and photography.
But some people have found other uses for drones, though in not so ethical ways. They are being used in taking high-resolution photos and videos in order to catch a philandering spouse red-handed. People who wish to spy on their spouses can either hire a professional drone operator to manipulate the device to capture incriminating evidence against their spouses, or operate the device themselves. The evidence can be a strong factor in receiving a favorable divorce settlement.
Now comes the question of whether using drones to spy on your spouse is legal. As with other methods of inter-spousal spying (like wiretapping a phone or activating a hidden camera inside the marital bedroom), this issue is still a gray area. That is, especially if the spying was activity conducted right in your own home, which is of course within your own area of jurisdiction. It’s similar to wiretapping your own phone at home in order to catch any conversations made by your spouse to an illicit lover.
Each state has its own laws about inter-spousal spying and what is defined as “invasion of privacy.” Twelve states including New Hampshire have so-called “all-party consent” where mutual consent between spouses is necessary in communications monitoring.
If you ever plan on using drones to spy on your own spouse’s activities, be aware that each person is entitled to privacy protection under the law. You may be accused of stalking, harassment, and trespassing (if the drone surveillance was done at another location). Your spouse has the right to file these charges against you as a criminal case.
Such a case is more known as a marital tort. Marital torts include any misdemeanors against one’s own spouse, like physical assault and battery, infection with STD, wrongful death, defamation, and rape. And yes, wiretapping is one of the grounds for a marital tort.
Marital torts were born out of recognition for women’s civil rights which then negated the traditional “unified marital entity” concept where spouses cannot sue each other.
In New Hampshire, your spouse can take you to court for marital tort if he/she finds out you have been employing a drone to videotape his/her activities in order to gather evidence for divorce proceedings. You could be asked to pay a fine for harassment and invasion of privacy, as well as emotional distress brought about by your surveillance. So it is best that you don’t even start spying in the first place.
Know Your Legal Rights
Likewise, if you have discovered that your spouse has been using drones or other devices to monitoring your activities in order to gather evidence against you to be used in divorce court, don’t let him/her get away with it. Remember that you have your own personal rights even if you’re married, including the right to file charges against your own spouse. Instead, get legal help immediately to know how you can stand up to that harassment.
By Joseph Annutto