Is Reading Someone Else's E-Mail a Crime?

By: Jennifer Milton Email
By: Jennifer Milton Email

Opening another person's mail without their permission is a felony that can put the offender behind bars for up to 5 years.

But, now a days, a password-protected email account can be accessed with the simple click of a mouse. So, does easier access to one's private electronic letters mean an easier punishment for the crime?

"Hacking into someone's computer with their password and reading their email, certainly falls within some Florida statues, and then creates challenges for law enforcement to find where in the statute it fits, as well as the state attorney's office for prosecution," said TPD's Public Information Officer, David McCranie.

Prosecutors with the Florida State Attorney's Office say in a nutshell, reading someone else's email without their consent is, in fact, illegal.

If a person intercepts someone else's email and *discloses* that information, he or she can face a 5 year prison sentence for the crime. But, under federal and Florida law, simply accessing stored email without permission is only considered a misdemeanor, punishable by a year or less in prison.

"You need to feel like OK, there's going to be some repercussions from this. My email is my personal information, it's like my mail box. You shouldn't be allowed to go into my mail box, you shouldn't be allowed to go into my email," said a Tallahassee resident who did not want to be identified.

Punishment for crimes involving email may vary from state to state, but it is always considered an invasion of privacy.

However, prosecutors say that if you type or read an email in a public place or print out the contents of the email and someone gains access to that information, it is not considered a crime.


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