The concept of “entrapment” is a highly contentious issue in both criminal and civil proceedings Most people are familiar with entrapment in the criminal sense, typically involving the police inducing a suspect to commit a criminal act. Although entrapment is not illegal in the US, whether law enforcement officials overstepped their bounds through certain tactics is still heavily argued in the criminal courts. Entrapment, however, can be committed by ordinary citizens through acts such as fraud, coercion or exploitation. A divorcing spouse, for example, may attempt to gather evidence of her her husband's adulterous conduct by setting up a fake dating profile.
Any experienced divorce attorney would advise against such tactics, especially in family court proceedings, where ethical conduct may factor into a judge's decision. While entrapment has always been a complex practice, the advent of social media has opened up a whole new frontier of legal and ethical considerations for the courts. In truth, the internet is a virtual Wild West -- an infinite cyber world of chat sites, forums and social networks where people engage in a wide variety of questionable behaviors. Cyber crime laws do exist, but it's still largely up to each site to monitor their users, and most sites rely heavily on users to report fellow users.
One of the greatest legal dilemmas facing courts today is the legal/ ethical usage of social media sites like Facebook, where users choose to give someone access to their page by adding them as a “Friend”. Users can also limit public access to their information through privacy settings, which makes most of your page visible only to those on your Friends list. What happens then, when a user pretends to be someone else in order to gain access to your page? This is a popular tactic used by many law enforcement agencies and private child protection organizations like Perverted-Justice. In recent years, it has even been used by lawyers to gather incriminating information, mostly for personal injury cases. Plaintiffs who have been caught by lawyers pretending to be someone else in order to be added to their page have argued that their private information was obtained through fraudulent means. As a result, they were tricked into providing the other party with information that they normally would have kept private.
The courts have not taken a definitive stance on the legality of such actions, although the issue has been brought before individual district ethics committees, and the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE). As of now, the New Jersey Supreme Court has not focused on whether such actions should be classified as entrapment, but it is likely to be an issue they will have review in the near future. Gathering evidence for a divorce case has always been complicated, but the universal usage of social media has opened up a whole new world of legal concerns for divorcing spouses. To learn more about your divorce rights and legal options, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.