18 U.S. Code § 2520 - Recovery of civil damages authorized

(a) In General.— Except as provided in section 2511 (2)(a)(ii), any person whose wire, oral, or electronic communication is intercepted, disclosed, or intentionally used in violation of this chapter may in a civil action recover from the person or entity, other than the United States, which engaged in that violation such relief as may be appropriate.
(b) Relief.— In an action under this section, appropriate relief includes—
(1) such preliminary and other equitable or declaratory relief as may be appropriate;
(2) damages under subsection (c) and punitive damages in appropriate cases; and
(3) a reasonable attorney’s fee and other litigation costs reasonably incurred.
(c) Computation of Damages.—
(1) In an action under this section, if the conduct in violation of this chapter is the private viewing of a private satellite video communication that is not scrambled or encrypted or if the communication is a radio communication that is transmitted on frequencies allocated under subpart D of part 74 of the rules of the Federal Communications Commission that is not scrambled or encrypted and the conduct is not for a tortious or illegal purpose or for purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage or private commercial gain, then the court shall assess damages as follows:
(A) If the person who engaged in that conduct has not previously been enjoined under section 2511 (5) and has not been found liable in a prior civil action under this section, the court shall assess the greater of the sum of actual damages suffered by the plaintiff, or statutory damages of not less than $50 and not more than $500.
(B) If, on one prior occasion, the person who engaged in that conduct has been enjoined under section 2511 (5) or has been found liable in a civil action under this section, the court shall assess the greater of the sum of actual damages suffered by the plaintiff, or statutory damages of not less than $100 and not more than $1000.
(2) In any other action under this section, the court may assess as damages whichever is the greater of—
(A) the sum of the actual damages suffered by the plaintiff and any profits made by the violator as a result of the violation; or
(B) statutory damages of whichever is the greater of $100 a day for each day of violation or $10,000.
(d) Defense.— A good faith reliance on—
(1) a court warrant or order, a grand jury subpoena, a legislative authorization, or a statutory authorization;
(2) a request of an investigative or law enforcement officer under section 2518 (7) of this title; or
(3) a good faith determination that section 2511 (3) or 2511 (2)(i) of this title permitted the conduct complained of;
is a complete defense against any civil or criminal action brought under this chapter or any other law.
(e) Limitation.— A civil action under this section may not be commenced later than two years after the date upon which the claimant first has a reasonable opportunity to discover the violation.
(f) Administrative Discipline.— If a court or appropriate department or agency determines that the United States or any of its departments or agencies has violated any provision of this chapter, and the court or appropriate department or agency finds that the circumstances surrounding the violation raise serious questions about whether or not an officer or employee of the United States acted willfully or intentionally with respect to the violation, the department or agency shall, upon receipt of a true and correct copy of the decision and findings of the court or appropriate department or agency promptly initiate a proceeding to determine whether disciplinary action against the officer or employee is warranted. If the head of the department or agency involved determines that disciplinary action is not warranted, he or she shall notify the Inspector General with jurisdiction over the department or agency concerned and shall provide the Inspector General with the reasons for such determination.
(g) Improper Disclosure Is Violation.— Any willful disclosure or use by an investigative or law enforcement officer or governmental entity of information beyond the extent permitted by section 2517 is a violation of this chapter for purposes of section 2520 (a).

Source

(Added Pub. L. 90–351, title III, § 802,June 19, 1968, 82 Stat. 223; amended Pub. L. 91–358, title II, § 211(c),July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 654; Pub. L. 99–508, title I, § 103,Oct. 21, 1986, 100 Stat. 1853; Pub. L. 107–56, title II, § 223(a),Oct. 26, 2001, 115 Stat. 293; Pub. L. 107–296, title II, § 225(e),Nov. 25, 2002, 116 Stat. 2157.)
Amendments

2002—Subsec. (d)(3). Pub. L. 107–296inserted “or 2511(2)(i)” after “2511(3)”.
2001—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 107–56, § 223(a)(1), inserted “, other than the United States,” after “person or entity”.
Subsecs. (f), (g). Pub. L. 107–56, § 223(a)(2), (3), added subsecs. (f) and (g).
1986—Pub. L. 99–508amended section generally. Prior to amendment, section read as follows: “Any person whose wire or oral communication is intercepted, disclosed, or used in violation of this chapter shall (1) have a civil cause of action against any person who intercepts, discloses, or uses, or procures any other person to intercept, disclose, or use such communications, and (2) be entitled to recover from any such person—
“(a) actual damages but not less than liquidated damages computed at the rate of $100 a day for each day of violation or $1,000, whichever is higher;
“(b) punitive damages; and
“(c) a reasonable attorney’s fee and other litigation costs reasonably incurred.
A good faith reliance on a court order or legislative authorization shall constitute a complete defense to any civil or criminal action brought under this chapter or under any other law.”
1970—Pub. L. 91–358substituted provisions that a good faith reliance on a court order or legislative authorization constitute a complete defense to any civil or criminal action brought under this chapter or under any other law, for provisions that a good faith reliance on a court order or on the provisions of section 2518 (7) of this chapter constitute a complete defense to any civil or criminal action brought under this chapter.
Effective Date of 2002 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 107–296effective 60 days after Nov. 25, 2002, see section 4 ofPub. L. 107–296, set out as an Effective Date note under section 101 of Title 6, Domestic Security.
Effective Date of 1986 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 99–508effective 90 days after Oct. 21, 1986, and, in case of conduct pursuant to court order or extension, applicable only with respect to court orders and extensions made after such date, with special rule for State authorizations of interceptions, see section 111 ofPub. L. 99–508, set out as a note under section 2510 of this title.
Effective Date of 1970 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 91–358effective on first day of seventh calendar month which begins after July 29, 1970, see section 901(a) ofPub. L. 91–358.

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18 USCDescription of ChangeSession YearPublic LawStatutes at Large

 

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