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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Measure would let parents legally snoop on children

By Rachel La Corte Associated Press

OLYMPIA – Parents would be allowed to eavesdrop on their children’s phone conversations or intercept their mail under a bill that went before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

The law is being proposed in the wake of a recent state Supreme Court ruling that a mother violated Washington’s privacy law by eavesdropping on her daughter’s phone conversation.

Under House Bill 1178, not only would the parent not be breaking the law by snooping on a child’s phone calls; any information a parent gleans from the intercepted communications could be used in court. But some have expressed concern about the bill’s language, which allows calls to be recorded and mail to be intercepted.

“We have a right of privacy that ought not be taken from a child unless you meet an extremely high burden, that the parents’ violation of that right meets some greater good,” said committee Chairwoman Rep. Patricia Lantz, D-Gig Harbor. “How are we going to measure that?”

Lantz said that the bill, as it’s worded now, has a “rough road to travel.”

In December, the state Supreme Court ruled that Carmen Dixon’s testimony against a friend of her daughter should not have been admitted in court because it was based on an intercepted conversation.

The justices unanimously ordered a new trial for Oliver Christensen, who had been convicted of second-degree robbery, in part due to Dixon’s testimony.

Dixon had been asked by San Juan County Sheriff Bill Cumming to be alert for any possible evidence in a Friday Harbor purse snatching. When Christensen called Dixon’s 14-year-old daughter, Dixon listened in on speakerphone.