It’s a common scenario: a couple is going through a divorce and one spouse is convinced that the other is having an affair and that he or she can prove it by accessing that person’s e-mail or Facebook account.

Hold on.

Aside from legal questions about whether or not information obtained in that manner will be admissible in court at trial (a question for another day and another forum), such behavior may constitute a crime.

Missouri law provides that disclosing or taking data residing on a computer system or a computer network without authorization or reasonable grounds to believe that he or she had such authorization (tampering with computer data),  is a Class A misdemeanor,  punishable by  fine up to $1,000 and/or a term in prison not to exceed one year §560.016 (RSMo.). If the data was taken with the purpose of devising or executing any scheme or artifice to defraud or to obtain property valued at $500 or more, in which case it is a class D felony, punishable by fine up to $5,000 or twice the amount of offender’s gain (up to $20,000) and/or term I prison not to exceed four years §558.011 (RSMo.).

Talk to your attorney before accessing your spouse’s e-mail or Facebook page.  There are legal ways to get this information.