The state Supreme Court has ruled that the Privacy Act prohibits a parent from eavesdropping on a child's phone conversations.

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The state Supreme Court has ruled that the Privacy Act prohibits a parent from eavesdropping on a child’s phone conversations.


The case came to the Supreme Court because of a purse-snatching in Friday Harbor. A 17-year-old boy was convicted of second-degree robbery, based in part on testimony from his girlfriend’s mom, who overhead him discussing the crime on the phone with her daughter.


The daughter had taken a cordless phone into her bedroom and closed the door. In another room, the mom pressed the “speakerphone” button on the base of the phone, listened to the conversation and took notes.


The court ruled that the daughter and her boyfriend had a reasonable expectation of privacy on the phone. Washington state law prohibits intercepting or recording conversations without consent from all participants.


“The Washington privacy statute puts a high value on the privacy of communications,” Justice Tom Chambers wrote in the unanimous opinion.


The daughter’s boyfriend will get a new trial.


The case is State of Washington v. Oliver C. Christensen, No. 74839-0