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E-Mail Privacy, Child Custody, and Criminal Charges All at Issue in Oakland County Case

Marriage involves a lot of sharing. Two lives become intertwined in so many ways that the privacy lines can become blurred. But a recent Oakland County case is a stark reminder that e-mail accounts are one aspect of a marriage that are best kept separate.

As Oakland County child custody lawyers, we know how sensitive the accessing and sharing of a spouse’s personal information can be. The risks involved are well illustrated in the current case involving a Michigan man who logged into his wife’s Gmail account by guessing her password. The man, Leon Walker, printed out e-mails indicating his wife Clara was having an affair.

Leon Walker shared these e-mails with a previous husband of Clara’s – who then used them to seek an emergency order granting custody of the child he and Clara had together.

The custody motion was followed by another serious development. A Michigan prosecutor charged Leon Walker with violating an online privacy law. The law, MCL 752.795, prohibits “intentionally and without authorization” accessing someone’s computer information in order to “acquire, alter, damage, delete, or destroy property.”

A felony statute like this is normally used against malicious hackers, not suspicious spouses. But on December 27, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the charges. The case is now back in Oakland County, awaiting a jury trial date. It is possible that Leon Walker will appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court before a trial date is set.

Whatever happens with the criminal charges in this case, it is clearly a reminder that personal e-mail should be kept private. And that includes spouses – even those going through a divorce.

Source: “Reading your spouse’s e-mails could be a crime,” Observer & Eccentric, 1-18-12