Trenton, N.J. Adulterers, beware: Your cheatin' heart might be exposed by E-ZPass.
E-ZPass and other electronic toll collection systems are emerging as a powerful means of proving infidelity. That's because when your spouse doesn't know where you've been, E-ZPass does.
"E-ZPass is an E-ZPass to go directly to divorce court, because it's an easy way to show you took the off-ramp to adultery," said Jacalyn Barnett, a New York divorce lawyer who has used E-ZPass records a few times.
Lynne Gold-Bikin, a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer, said E-ZPass helped prove a client's husband was being unfaithful: "He claimed he was in a business meeting in Pennsylvania. And I had records to show he went to New Jersey that night."
Generally mounted inside a vehicle's windshield behind the rearview mirror, E-ZPass devices communicate with antennas at toll plazas, automatically deducting money from the motorist's prepaid account.
Of the 12 states in the Northeast and Midwest that are part of the E-ZPass system, agencies in seven states provide electronic toll information in response to court orders in criminal and civil cases, including divorces, according to an Associated Press survey.
In four of the 12 states, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania, highway authorities release E-ZPass records only in criminal cases. West Virginia parkways authority has no policy. (Divorce attorneys in some cases can still obtain toll records from the other spouse rather than a highway agency.)
The Illinois Tollway, which hands over toll records, received more than 30 such subpoenas the first half of this year, with about half coming from civil cases, including divorces, according to Joelle McGinnis, an agency spokeswoman.
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority said it turns down about 30 subpoenas in civil cases every year, about half of them divorces.
Electronic toll records have also proved useful in criminal cases.
They played a role in the murder case against Melanie McGuire, a New Jersey nurse convicted in April of killing her husband and tossing his cut-up remains into the Chesapeake Bay in three matching suitcases in 2004. Prosecutors used toll records to reconstruct her movements.