As Georgia divorce attorneys, we commonly hear questions such as “If I guess my husband’s computer password, can I view his emails or search history?” or “Can I install spyware or a keystroke program on my husband’s computer to monitor his usage?” Although questions such as this may arise in the context of divorce, they actually implicate certain aspects of Georgia’s criminal law.
Specifically, these areas of Georgia criminal law concern computer theft, computer trespass and computer invasion of privacy. These statues state in relevant part:
a) Computer Theft. Any person who uses a computer or computer network with knowledge that such use is without authority and with the intention of:
(1) Taking or appropriating any property of another, whether or not with the intention of depriving the owner of possession;
(2) Obtaining property by any deceitful means or artful practice; or
(3) Converting property to such person’s use in violation of an agreement or other known legal obligation to make a specified application or disposition of such property shall be guilty of the crime of computer theft.
(b) Computer Trespass. Any person who uses a computer or computer network with knowledge that such use is without authority and with the intention of:
(1) Deleting or in any way removing, either temporarily or permanently, any computer program or data from a computer or computer network;
(2) Obstructing, interrupting, or in any way interfering with the use of a computer program or data; or
(3) Altering, damaging, or in any way causing the malfunction of a computer, computer network, or computer program, regardless of how long the alteration, damage, or malfunction persists shall be guilty of the crime of computer trespass.
(c) Computer Invasion of Privacy. Any person who uses a computer or computer network with the intention of examining any employment, medical, salary, credit, or any other financial or personal data relating to any other person with knowledge that such examination is without authority shall be guilty of the crime of computer invasion of privacy.
O.C.G.A. § 16-9-93 (a) – (c) (emphasis added).
Although it may be tempting to investigate your spouse’s internet and email activity during or prior to divorce, with the above cited statutes in mind, doing so without your spouse’s permission or without any court order or authority maybe criminal. So, if you suspect there is evidence or information relevant to your Georgia divorce stored on your spouse’s computer, seek the counsel of a Georgia divorce attorney to determine how to go about discovering this information lawfully.