ECPA Penalties: What You Need to Know
There are both civil and criminal penalties for a violation of the ECPA. It can be very financially damaging if you are found in violation of this law. For example, a court can award damages to the victim of such eavesdropping. The damages are calculated in a way that each day of continuation of the violation gives rise to a higher amount of damages. In addition, the court can force you to pay the attorneys’ fees of the other party, which could be higher than the amount of damages. A court may also impose additional, punitive damages if the violation is especially malicious. Finally, a court may impose a term of imprisonment not to exceed five years for a violation of the ECPA. In addition to the federal law, there are also state laws affecting your ability to engage in electronic eavesdropping. North Carolina General Statute Section 15A-287 criminalizes the willful interception, use or disclosure of the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication “without the consent of at least one party to the communication.” This has been categorized as a Class H felony. As if the foregoing penalties are not enough deterrent, you could also be sued under North Carolina common law for an “invasion of privacy.” Again, this could expose you to similar economic damages.