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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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by wdyoung Location: Tallahassee on Dec 28, 2010 at 12:34 PM
    I can kinda see both sides. Email (not a shared account) is personal. But someone who could make life or death medical decisions for you can't read your email?
  • by a mama on Dec 28, 2010 at 10:04 AM
    No, I don't think its a crime. If somebody thinks their spouse is cheating tho, why would they want to be with that person without trust?
  • by Anonymous on Dec 28, 2010 at 09:55 AM
    It is simple. You know that it is not your e-mail. Even if the password is easily accessible (taped to the monitor) you know it is wrong to open email that is not yours. Suspecting a spouse of cheating may be a motive to open the mail, but it is still illegal.
  • by Denise Location: Tally on Dec 28, 2010 at 09:55 AM
    Hey anonymous: It was the woman who was cheating. How about reading the article before you comment.Also you would have to be a nutjob to make any comments on a phone or the internet if your cheating. This county has become one that is full of doped up no brain fools.Where is the common sense.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 28, 2010 at 09:19 AM
    So, just because she thinks he is cheating, she can go ahead and violate the law?
  • by Denise Location: Tally on Dec 28, 2010 at 08:44 AM
    If you have the password and he did how is it hacking? The idiot woman had her password in a book next to the computer.If you suspect your spouse is cheating nothing should be off limits.But that's just me.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 28, 2010 at 07:23 AM
    Email doesn't come into a home. It goes into an account. I am the only one that knows my email password (yahoo, and Gmail). Even if you got onto my computer you could not get into my mail account without the password.
  • by Alice Location: Crawfordville on Dec 28, 2010 at 06:43 AM
    this person needs to get their own COMPUTER,not if mail comes into a shared home then it's fair game for either party i.e. husband or wife to open it. this is how you get caught CHEATING 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.
  • by Elizabeth Location: Tallahassee on Dec 28, 2010 at 04:25 AM
    this has to do with a divorce that is going on with a woman's husband find out she was CHEATING again with email from a SHARED computer. This is not a CRIME,what part of SHARED computer does this dumbbunny cheatin woman NOT UNDERSTAND?? STUPID IS AS Stupid Does. HELLLO
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