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Do you have a right to an expectation of privacy with pocket-dialed calls?

On Behalf of | Aug 7, 2015 | Criminal Defense Lawyer |

In today’s world, technology follows us wherever we go. Think about the last time you left your cell phone at home. It was probably an accident. If you’re one of the millions of people who carry their cell phone with them at all times, you’ll probably want to take precautions to ensure that you can’t accidently call someone after reading this story.

Last month, a federal appeals court heard a case that involved a “pocket dial” call. The former chairman of the board that oversees the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International airport, James Huff, sued the executive assistant to the airport CEO, Carol Spaw.

In October 2013, while traveling in Italy, Huff pocket-dialed Spaw. The 91-minute phone called included a conversation that Spaw claimed was about a plan to unlawfully discriminate. When she realized what was going on, Spaw began taking notes during the call and then recorded the last four minutes of it. She then passed a summarized report of the call onto the airport board. A lawsuit against Huff ensued.

Huff later filed for a dismissal of the suit saying that Spaw violated a federal law that bars the interception of communication. The federal appeals court did not agree with the allegation.

According to an article by the ABA Journal, the ruling was based on the fact that pocket dials can easily be avoided by placing property security measures on the phone such as locking the phone, setting up a passcode or using an app that will prevent pocket dials. It goes on to say that, “The appeals court said a person who operates a device capable of exposing conversations to third parties has no reasonable expectation of privacy when he or she fails to take precautions that would prevent such exposure.”

And what about the person Huff was speaking to? That happened to be Huff’s wife. The court’s opinion on her privacy rights stated that, “Speaking to a person who may carry a device capable of intercepting one’s statements does not constitute a waiver of the expectation of privacy in those statements.”

Technology and an expectation of privacy can certainly get tricky. Be sure to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney like Russell Spatz who can help you understand your rights and advocate on your behalf.

Source:, “Cellphone user had no expectation of privacy in pocket-dialed call, 6th Circuit rules,” Debra Cassens Weiss, 21 July 2015

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