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Illegal Recording Device Could Land Mother in Prison

Dec 12 | 2017  by

By Beth Florkowski of Fausone & Grysko, PLC posted in Criminal Law on Tuesday, December 12, 2017.

Jim Fausone, Esq.

Bullying prevention awareness has increased over the last several years, but efforts to eliminate it still often fall short. A mother of a 9-year-old in Virginia decided to take matters into her own hands. After her daughter complained of being bullied, Sarah Sims of Norfolk, VA., placed a digital audio recorder in her daughter’s backpack.

The goal was to capture the atmosphere of the fourth-grader’s school day and ultimately stop the bullying. Before Sims had a chance to listen to the recordings, the device was confiscated by school officials. As a result, Sims was charged with intercepting wire, electronic or oral communications as well as contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The former of which being a felony and the latter a misdemeanor. Sims noted that she reached out to the school by phone and email prior to the confiscation and received no response.

Sims’ attorney expressed her shock that that school decided to press charges rather than work with her to ease her concerns. In Virginia, an individual may record a conversation or phone call if they are a party to the conversation or they receive permission from a party involved. In this case, it will depend on whether the 9-year-old daughter can be considered a party legally allowed to give consent.

The debate between whether Sims acted unlawfully to help alleviate her daughters bullying problem will take place in court in January 2018. Meanwhile, a petition calling for Sims’ charges to be dropped has acquired more than 700 signatures.