Comprehensive Overview (state-by-state) of the Legal Impact of wiretapping:

South Carolina

Current status

South Carolina has an interception statute based on the Federal Wiretapping Act, adopting the same provisions and definitions. South Carolina is thus an “one party consent state” with regard to intercepting, using and disclosing private communications, either oral, wired or electronic.

The state also has an invasion of privacy statute, which addresses privacy violations by eavesdropping, peeping, voyeurism or aggravated voyeurism.

Impact of law

In South Carolina, it is legal for a person to record an oral conversation or communication in which he or she is a party without the consent and without notifying the other parties. The same is valid for wire and electronic communications, defined as “any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature”, meaning that one can also lawfully record any email, text messages, chat content and other online interactions under the same circumstances.

The law also mentions the unlawful use of any electronic, mechanical, or other device or service that causes the telephone network to display a telephone number that is not the number of the originating device.

The voyeurism statute makes it illegal to spy or eavesdrop upon another person, by peeping through windows, doors, or other like places, on or about the premises of another. The law sets a sexual context when addressing voyeurism as the videotaping or otherwise recording of another person.

References to Physical TSCM

South Carolina law, as based on the federal provisions, prohibits the illegal “interception of any wire, electronic, or oral communication”. Further definitions of terms lead to a very broad perspective on the law.

First, the law defines the term “intercept” as the acquisition of the contents of communication “through the use of any electronic, mechanical, or other device”.

Second “electronic, mechanical, or other device” is defined as “any device or apparatus which can be used to intercept” a wire, electronic, or oral communication.

We can thus assert that the law addresses illegal interception through the use of any device which can be used to intercept any wire, electronic, or oral communication. This is an all-inclusive perspective, that can literally address any means of wiretapping and available devices.

References to Cyber TSCM

As stated earlier, In the case of intercepting electronic communication, the law mentions the use of any electronic, mechanical, or other device as means for illegal acquisition of electronic communication content. From further definitions, we assert that such devices are considered to be “any device or apparatus which can be used to intercept” “any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature”. This description can be interpreted to cover all available cyber surveillance tools.

Criminal implications

Violations of the intercepting statute are felonies, punishable by imprisonment for up to 5 years and fine of up to $5,000. Violations of the voyeurism law are misdemeanors, punishable by fines of up to $500 or imprisonment for not more than 3 years. Aggravated voyeurism is a felony punishable by fines between $500 and $5,000 or imprisonment for up to 10 years.

Civil implications

Anyone whose wire, electronic or oral communication has been recorded, used or disclosed in violation of the law shall have a civil course of action and be entitled to recover from the perpetrator actual damages, computed at the rate of $500 a day for each day of violation or $25,000, whichever is greater, and additional punitive damages, attorney’s fees and court costs.

Code excerpts

S.C. Code Ann. SECTION 17-30-20[1]. Interception of Wire, Electronic, or Oral Communications – Prohibited acts.

Except as otherwise specifically provided in this chapter, a person who commits any of the following acts is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be punished as provided in Section 17-30-50 of this chapter:

(1) intentionally intercepts, attempts to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or attempt to intercept any wire, oral, or electronic communication;

(2) intentionally uses, attempts to use, or procures any other person to use or attempt to use any electronic, mechanical, or other device to intercept any oral communication when:

(a) the device is affixed to or otherwise transmits a signal through a wire, cable, or other like connection used in wire communication; or

(b) the device transmits communications by radio or interferes with the transmission of the communication;

(3) intentionally discloses or attempts to disclose to any other person the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through the interception of a wire, oral, or electronic communication in violation of this subsection;

(4) intentionally uses or attempts to use the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through the interception of a wire, oral, or electronic communication in violation of this subsection;

(5) intentionally discloses or attempts to disclose to any other person the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication intercepted by means authorized by Section 17-30-70 or Section 17-30-95 when that person knows or has reason to know that the information was obtained through the interception of such a communication in connection with a criminal investigation and the disclosure is not otherwise authorized under this chapter; or

(6) intentionally uses, attempts to use, or procures any other person to use any electronic, mechanical, or other device or service that causes the telephone network to display a telephone number on a phone call recipient’s caller identification display that is not the number of the originating device

S.C. Code Ann. SECTION 17-30-30.

(C) It is lawful under this chapter for a person not acting under color of law to intercept a wire, oral, or electronic communication where the person is a party to the communication or where one of the parties to the communication has given prior consent to the interception.

S.C. Code Ann. SECTION 17-30-50. Penalty for violating Sections 17-30-20 through 17-30-45.

(A) Except as provided in subsection (B), whoever violates the provisions of Sections 17-30-20 through 17-30-45, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not more than five years or fined not more than five thousand dollars, or both.

S.C. Code Ann. SECTION 17-30-135. Civil action for wrongful interceptions.

(A) Any person whose wire, oral, or electronic communication is intercepted, disclosed, or used in violation of this chapter has a civil cause of action against any person or entity who intercepts, discloses, or uses, or procures any other person or entity to intercept, disclose, or use the communications and is entitled to recover from the person or entity which engaged in that violation relief as may be appropriate, including:

(1) preliminary or equitable or declaratory relief as may be appropriate;

(2) actual damages, but not less than liquidated damages computed at the rate of five hundred dollars a day for each day of violation or twenty-five thousand dollars, whichever is greater, not to exceed the limits on liability provided in subsection (F)(3);

(3) punitive damages, except as may be prohibited in subsection (F)(4); and

(4) a reasonable attorney’s fee and other litigation costs reasonably incurred.

(C) A civil action under this section may not be commenced later than five years after the date upon which the claimant first has a reasonable opportunity to discover the violation, except as provided in subsection (F)(2).

S.C. Code Ann. SECTION 16-17-470[2]. Eavesdropping, peeping, voyeurism.

(A) It is unlawful for a person to be an eavesdropper or a peeping tom on or about the premises of another or to go upon the premises of another for the purpose of becoming an eavesdropper or a peeping tom. The term “peeping tom”, as used in this section, is defined as a person who peeps through windows, doors, or other like places, on or about the premises of another, for the purpose of spying upon or invading the privacy of the persons spied upon and any other conduct of a similar nature, that tends to invade the privacy of others. The term “peeping tom” also includes any person who employs the use of video or audio equipment for the purposes set forth in this section. A person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

(B) A person commits the crime of voyeurism if, for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire of any person, he or she knowingly views, photographs, audio records, video records, produces, or creates a digital electronic file, or films another person, without that person’s knowledge and consent, while the person is in a place where he or she would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

A person who violates the provisions of this subsection:

(1) for a first offense, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; or

(2) for a second or subsequent offense, is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be fined not less than five hundred dollars or more than five thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

(C) A person commits the crime of aggravated voyeurism if he or she knowingly sells or distributes any photograph, audio recording, video recording, digital electronic file, or film of another person taken or made in violation of this section. A person who violates the provisions of this subsection is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be fined not less than five hundred dollars or more than five thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

 

 

[1] Source: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t17c030.php

[2] Source: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t16c017.php