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The case of the illegal 'pocket dial' in Georgia

Who would have thought that listening in on someone's conversation when they clearly "pocket dialed" you from their cellphone would be something illegal? Apparently, anyone carefully reading the state of Georgia's wiretapping laws would think it.

Georgia is a one-party state when it comes to wiretapping, which encompasses pretty much any phone calls or personal conversations. That means that at least one party to a conversation, but not both, has to be aware of the fact that the conversation is being recorded or listened in on and give consent for it to be legal.

There's a recent case that raised the issue. A Georgia man talked to his boss, hung up and tucked the phone in his pocket. The phone never actually turned off. The boss heard his employee speaking confidentially to his wife and decided to listen in for over 10 minutes, knowing that his employee thought the call had ended.

While the boss was listening, he heard his employee criticize him. He then fired the employee. While the boss has escaped criminal liability thus far in the case, his actions are technically a felony.

The only mitigating factor is that prosecutors have declined to move forward with the case. Since the employee and his wife were the only ones speaking during the eavesdropping and both were unaware that the man's boss was listening in, that's in violation of the law. It's a serious offense that's landed more than one jealous spouse or snooping partner in jail before.

This case is just unique because the man doing the eavesdropping didn't place the call or plant any recording devices. He just took advantage of the situation to snoop.

Prosecutors may be waiting to see how the civil case against the boss turns out. The boss claims his position as a public employee allows him to act the way that he did, because it was under the color of his authority. The employee's counsel says that claim is invalid, at best.

At the very least, the ruling on this case is likely to usher in a new chapter in wiretapping laws, potentially affecting all one-party states in the nation.

Source: Politically Georgia, "'Pocket dial’ cost Georgia worker his job. Now he’s suing.," April 05, 2018

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