California law has two penal code subsections to protect the public from violations of their privacy by those commonly called “peeping Toms.” The first covers peeking at someone while loitering, while the second involves using a device of some kind to violate someone’s privacy. If you have been accused of either of these crimes, a lawyer is critical in helping you fight the charges and protect your reputation.
Peeking While Loitering
The first peeping Tom law outlaws peering through the door or window of an inhabited building or structure without having lawful business with the owner or occupant. For example, if you come to a job interview and are seated outside the interviewer’s office and see him or her walking around the office in the nude through a crack in the door or the office’s blinds, you aren’t violating the law because you had lawful business with the interviewer. On the other hand, if you were peering through that same person’s window from the street, solely for the purpose of looking through the window, you would be breaking the law because the person had a reasonable expectation of privacy and you had no lawful business with him or her.
A good defense for these crimes involve having your attorney show that you had a valid lawful purpose when it came to being in the place where you were when the alleged spying took place. In other cases, the best defense involves arguing that no invasion of privacy took place because you did not peer through someone’s window or door while on another person’s private property.
Criminal Invasion of Privacy
The other subsection of the law prevents spying on someone with a device such as a telescope, binoculars, a camera, a mobile phone or a video camera. This law is intended to protect people from those who might not be peeping from the same property. In order to allow business owners to operate security cameras, this law is written in a very specific manner to only outlaw the secret filming of someone’s body or undergarments. It’s worth noting that these laws are also used to ban upskirt photography. This law is most commonly used to protect a person’s privacy while in a fitting room, public bathroom or other public place where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Because this law features a lot more specific details, these cases are much more complex than the other type of peeping Tom law, which is why, if you have been charged with this crime, you should immediately contact call criminal defense lawyers with experience handling sex crimes.
There are many defenses to this offense, but because it is very easy to say something to harm your case (especially if there is ample evidence of you having photo or video recordings of someone using a bathroom or changing room), you should refuse to speak with police without your defense attorney present.
Penalties for Violating Peeping Tom Laws
Both forms of privacy invasions are misdemeanors that fall under the umbrella of disorderly conduct. This means they are punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine of $2,000 -with the strictest penalties used against those who are repeat offenders and those who spied on minors. The good news is that even if you have been found guilty of these offenses, you will not be required to register as a sex offender.
These crimes require a very specific set of circumstances to occur in order for a party to be found guilty, which means there are many defenses available in these types of cases. Even if you are undeniably guilty of the crime, it can still pay off to work with a top-quality criminal defense lawyer as he may be able to negotiate an alternative sentence that involves probation rather than jail time.