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

Tennessee

Current status

Tennessee Code criminalizes the interception or recording of other persons without their consent. In the case of private communication, the law forbids the interception of wire, oral or electronic communications, unless he or she is a party to the communication or has received prior consent from one of the parties. Tennessee further addresses interception of communication in Tenn. Code Ann. 39-13-604 – Interception of cellular or cordless telephone transmissions.

The state also has a law addressing unlawful photographing in violation of privacy.

Impact of law

In Tennessee 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”. One can thus lawfully record any email, text messages, chat content and other online interactions in which he or she is a participant. The law criminalizes photographing of other persons in violation of privacy only when such images are recorded for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification of the defendant.

References to Physical TSCM

Tennessee 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 also mentions the use of any electronic, mechanical, or other device as means for illegal acquisition of 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” and that this description covers all cyber surveillance tools.

Criminal implications

Interception or other violations of the wiretapping statute are class D felonies, while unlawful interceptions of cellular or cordless telephone transmissions are class A misdemeanors. Unlawful photographing in violation of privacy is also a class A misdemeanor.

Civil implications

Any aggrieved person whose wire, oral or electronic communication is intentionally intercepted, disclosed, or used may recover damages in a civil action. Damages are awarded in the greater amount of either the sum of the actual damages and any profits made by the violator as a result of the violation or statutory damages of $100 a day for each day of violation or $10,000.

Code excerpts

Tenn. Code Ann. 39-13-601[1]. Wiretapping and electronic surveillance – Exceptions.

(a) (1) Except as otherwise specifically provided in §§ 39-13-601 — 39-13-603 and title 40, chapter 6, part 3, a person commits an offense who:

(A) Intentionally intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept, any wire, oral, or electronic communication;

(B) Intentionally uses, endeavors to use, or procures any other person to use or endeavor to use any electronic, mechanical, or other device to intercept any oral communication when:

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

(ii) The device transmits communications by radio, or interferes with the transmission of the communication;

(C) Intentionally discloses, or endeavors 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 (a); or

(D) Intentionally uses, or endeavors 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 (a).

(5) It is lawful under §§ 39-13-601 — 39-13-603 and title 40, chapter 6, part 3 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, […]

Tenn. Code Ann. 40-6-303[2]. Definitions

(7) Electronic communication means any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by the aid of wire, radio, electromagnetic, photo-optical or photoelectronic facilities

(9) Electronic, mechanical, or other device means any device or apparatus which can be used to intercept a wire, oral, or electronic communication […]

(11) Intercept means the aural or other acquisition of the contents of any wire, electronic, or oral communication through the use of any electronic, mechanical, or other device;

39-13-602[3]. Penalty for violations.

A person who violates § 39-13-601(a) commits a Class D felony.

Tenn. Code Ann. 39-13-603[4]. Civil actions

(a) […] any aggrieved person whose wire, oral or electronic communication is intentionally intercepted, disclosed, or used in violation of § 39-13-601 or title 40, chapter 6, part 3 may in a civil action recover from the person or entity that engaged in that violation the following relief:

(1) The greater of:

(A) The sum of the actual damages, including any damage to personal or business reputation or relationships, suffered by the plaintiff and any profits made by the violator as a result of the violation; or

(B) Statutory damages of one hundred dollars ($100) a day for each day of violation or ten thousand dollars ($10,000), whichever is greater;

(2) Punitive damages; and

(3) A reasonable attorney’s fee and other litigation costs reasonably incurred.

(d) A civil action under this section or title 40, chapter 6, part 3 may not be commenced later than two (2) years after the date upon which the claimant first discovered or had a reasonable opportunity to discover the violation.

Tenn. Code Ann. 39-13-604[5]. Interception of cellular or cordless telephone transmissions.

(b) (1) A person commits an offense who, without the consent of at least one (1) party to a communication, intentionally records or disseminates a communication transmitted between two (2) cellular radio telephones, a cellular radio telephone and a landline telephone, or a cordless telephone and a cellular radio telephone.

(c) (1) A violation of subsection (b) is a Class A misdemeanor.

(2) A violation of subsection (b) is a Class E felony, if the defendant knowingly publishes, distributes or otherwise disseminates to another the intercepted or recorded communication.

39-13-605[6]. Unlawful photographing in violation of privacy.

(a) It is an offense for a person to knowingly photograph, or cause to be photographed an individual, when the individual is in a place where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, without the prior effective consent of the individual, or in the case of a minor, without the prior effective consent of the minor’s parent or guardian, if the photograph:

(1) Would offend or embarrass an ordinary person if such person appeared in the photograph; and

(2) Was taken for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification of the defendant.

(d) (1) A violation of this section is a Class A misdemeanor.

 

 

[1] Source: http://www.tsc.state.tn.us/sites/default/files/docs/campbell.tncode_39_13_601.wiretap_1.pdf

[2]Source: http://law.justia.com/codes/tennessee/2010/title-40/chapter-6/part-3/40-6-303/

[3] Source: http://law.justia.com/codes/tennessee/2010/title-39/chapter-13/part-6/39-13-602

[4] Source: http://law.justia.com/codes/tennessee/2010/title-39/chapter-13/part-6/39-13-603/

[5] Source: http://law.justia.com/codes/tennessee/2010/title-39/chapter-13/part-6/39-13-604

[6] Source: http://law.justia.com/codes/tennessee/2010/title-39/chapter-13/part-6/39-13-605