Parents Eavesdropping on Children’s Conversations

A recent court decision ruled that parents may use electronic devices to listen in on telephone conversations when their minor children — so long as the parents believe the eavesdropping will be in the child’s best interest. (1)

Most states recognize so-called “vicarious consent” exception to the 1-party consent wiretapping law which bans outsiders from monitoring a conversation unless one of the participants consents in advance.

In this case, a father used a mobile phone to record his ex-wife’s live-in boyfriend, a convicted felon, threatening to beat the father’s five-year old son. The court allowed the recorded threats to be admitted into evidence at the boyfriend’s child endangerment and assault trial which was affirmed.

The father had a good faith objectively reasonable basis to believe it was necessary for the welfare of his son to record the violent conversation.

The court relied on an older case known as the Pollock Doctrine (2) allows a “vicarious consent exception” in federal wiretapping law.

Although Missouri has not specifically ruled on the decision, an Eight Circuit opinion (federal court covering Missouri) affirms this law. (3)


(1) People v. Badalamenti, 99 Crim Law 52 (NY 2016).
(2) Pollock v. Pollock, 154 F3d 601 (6th Cir. 1998).
(3) Kempf v. Kempf, 868 F2d 970 (8th Cir. 1989).

By | 2017-10-06T15:13:49+00:00 October 6th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

About the Author:

Dee Wampler

Dee Wampler has practiced law for 50 years has received many awards and honors. As Greene County’s youngest elected Prosecuting Attorney at the age of 29, Wampler’s reputation was quickly established as a leading trial attorney. Dee was an original organizer and first president Crimestoppers.

Wampler has published over 250 articles for Law Enforcement Journals, and authored six books: Missouri Criminal Law Handbook; The Trial of Christ; The Myth of Separation Between Church and State; Standing on the Front Line; Defending Yourself Against Cops in Missouri, and other Strange Places; and One Nation Under God. His knowledge of criminal law and trial tactics is widely recognized.

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