New York’s Top Court: Parents Can Legally Eavesdrop on Kids


Parents can legally eavesdrop on young children if they reasonably believe it would be in the child’s best interest, the state’s highest court ruled Tuesday, establishing an exception to New York law against wiretaps without the consent of at least one person on a call.

The 4-3 ruling by the Court of Appeals cautioned that the ruling shouldn’t be interpreted as a way to avoid criminal liability for wiretaps “when a parent acts in bad faith.”

Judge Eugene Fahey wrote for the majority that courts must consider the age and maturity of the child in considering parental eavesdropping. A key question “is whether the child is capable of formulating well-reasoned judgments of his or her own,” he wrote.

In a dissent, Judge Leslie Stein wrote that the issue raises many policy concerns that should be left to the Legislature, with implications for divorce and custody disputes, criminal proceedings against the minor or others.

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