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California Voyeurism Invasion Of Privacy Defense Lawyer – Penal Code 647(i) PC & 647(j) PC

How To Win A Voyeurism Or Invasion Of Privacy Crime Charge

If you were charged with voyeurism or invasion of privacy in California, consult with an experienced sex crime attorney. They will help you make sense of your legal options, including how you could avoid a conviction. My Rights Law has a lot of experience going to bat for Californians who are accused of serious sex crimes. We’re here for you. To get started, contact a sex crimes lawyers at My Rights Law for a free consultation by calling (888) 702-8882 or leave a message on our secure web form.

When you think of a voyeur, you probably think of someone who peeks into someone else’s home, usually using binoculars. Maybe you think of someone who stands outside someone’s home, hidden by bushes or trees, stealing a look into a woman’s bathroom or bedroom window. If either image comes to mind, your idea of a voyeur is correct. A voyeur is someone who invades the privacy of another when that person is in an intimate setting (e.g., bedroom, bathroom, changing room).

Voyeurism is illegal in California. However, California does not have a voyeurism law per se. Instead, this word is an umbrella term[1] for PC 647i and PC 647j. 647i covers peeking while loitering, and 647j covers criminal invasion of privacy. PC 647(j)(2) and 647(j)(3) cover the recording of someone as they undress, without that person’s knowledge or consent, either for sexual pleasure or with the intent to invade that person’s privacy. But keep in mind that a violation of these laws still amounts to voyeurism. To develop a clearer understanding of these crimes, let’s look at what a prosecutor must prove for them individually.

Elements Of Voyeurism

If the state accuses you of committing this crime, you must learn the elements of that crime. Some crimes have factors. A misdemeanor or felony can have elements. Whereas a prosecutor does not need to prove every factor listed, a prosecutor must prove every element listed happened. If the circumstances of your case do not agree with the elements of voyeurism, the prosecutor may drop or lessen the charges before trial. If you have gone to trial and your voyeurism attorney creates a reasonable doubt that the state has failed to demonstrate each element occurred[2], the jury should find you not guilty.

For the state to successfully charge you with peeking while loitering, a prosecutor must show that:

  • You were loitering, prowling, or wandering on private property.
  • You peeked into the door or window of a building, knowing that it was inhabited at that time.
  • You committed this act without having any lawful business with the property owner.

For the state to successfully charge you with criminal invasion of privacy, a prosecutor must show that:

  • You use your eye or any device to look into any sort of opening in a room where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy[3].

Here, a device may be your cell phone, telescope, binoculars, a drone, and so on. People have a reasonable expectation of privacy in rooms, such as bedrooms, bathrooms, fitting rooms, tanning booths, and dressing rooms.

For the state to successfully charge you with violating 647(j)(2), a prosecutor must show that:

  • You used a hidden camera to secretly record or photograph a person to see under that person’s clothes to see this person’s body or undergarments.
  • You could identify this person from the recording or pictures.
  • You did not have this person’s consent.
  • You committed this act to satisfy some sort of sexual desire and to invade this person’s privacy.
  • This person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area where you recorded her or him.

For the state to successfully charge you with violating 647(j)(3), a prosecutor must show that:

  • You used a hidden camera to secretly record or photograph a person to see that person’s body or undergarments.
  • You could identify this person from the recording or pictures.
  • You did not have this person’s consent or knowledge.
  • You set up the camera in a room where this person had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
  • You intended to invade this person’s privacy.
  • This person was fully or partially dressed.

You should be aware that the state can bring either of these charges against you regardless of whether the victim was fully or partially dressed. It’s also irrelevant whether you were a landlord and the victim was your tenant. You do not have the right to set up cameras inside your tenants’ homes. Likewise, it doesn’t matter if you committed this offense against a roommate or housemate; the state may still bring a case against you.

Penalties For Voyeurism

Voyeurism is a misdemeanor offense. You can serve up to six months in jail and pay a fine of up to $1000. However, a judge can sentence you to one year in jail and order you to pay a fine of $2000 if this is your second offense or your actions involve a minor. A more lenient judge may sentence you to summary probation instead.

Unlike other sex-related crimes, this isn’t an offense that puts you at risk of having to register as a sex offender. But that doesn’t mean you should take this charge lightly. Even a short time in jail can derail your life. You may miss significant moments with your family, such as holidays or weddings. You’ll be out of work, and it’ll become harder to get a job once you’re released. It’s also embarrassing to have a judge or jury convict you of being a Peeping Tom; your family and friends may not trust you and will likely feel less comfortable around you.

Defenses To Voyeurism

To learn more about the most applicable defense to your particular case, contact My Rights Law at (888) 702-8882 or contact us online. Continue reading below for a generic list of potential defenses to this crime.

Fourth Amendment Violation

An officer may not conduct a warrantless search or seizure of your property without reasonable suspicion or an exigent circumstance[4]. An officer has reasonable suspicion when they can point to articulable facts that would lead a rational person to believe that a crime is about to be or has been committed. An officer may also reference their experiences dealing with criminals to explain the reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is enough for a stop and frisk; it’s rarely enough to search your home.

Searching your property or seizing property in your home is presumed unreasonable unless the officer has a warrant. The warrant must accurately spell your name and address. If there’s an error on the warrant, it’s invalid, and the evidence gathered from it must be thrown out in court. An officer needs probable cause to secure a warrant. An officer has probable cause when they can show that, based on the totality of the circumstances, it is more than likely that a crime is underway. This is a higher threshold than reasonable suspicion.

But there are scenarios where an officer can lawfully search your home without a warrant. These scenarios fall under exigent circumstances. Some exigent circumstances are:

  • Stopping a fleeing suspect
  • Containing evidence that is in imminent danger of being destroyed

In other words, an officer may enter your home if they believe you’re destroying evidence, such as videotapes.

Mistaken Identity

Quite often, people only catch Peeping Toms at a glimpse. If the Peeping Tom ran away, it’d be hard for a witness to accurately describe the perpetrator’s facial features and clothes. Therefore, you may argue that it’s a case of mistaken identity. Showcasing discrepancies in the police description (e.g., the witness said you had black hair when you have brown hair; the witness said you’re about 6’0 when you’re 5’7; the witness said you had a tattoo on your upper left shoulder when you don’t) is vital to this sort of defense. It’s also helpful to produce a witness who can verify where you were at the time of the alleged incident, which is called your ‘alibi.’

No Reasonable Expectation Of Privacy

Not every place has a reasonable expectation of privacy, including bathrooms and bedrooms. For example, some bathrooms are open to the public. You may peek into a public bathroom stall to see whether it’s occupied. This is so common that a person could hardly argue they had a reasonable expectation of someone not glancing through the crack. Of course, a prolonged stare would be a clear invasion of privacy. Likewise, teenagers can’t reasonably expect privacy from their parents, even in their bedrooms.

No Intent To Invade Privacy

Suppose you heard a scream coming from inside a changing or fitting room. Instinctively, you peeked inside to see what was wrong. In this case, you may argue that you believed someone was in danger; your intention was never to invade someone’s privacy.

There are other scenarios where someone can accuse you of invasion of privacy. For example, suppose that you are a landlord of an apartment complex. Recently, there has been a string of robberies, but the criminals disappear before the police arrive. You decide to catch the perpetrators in the act, so you set up cameras. You set up cameras near areas the robbers have targeted the most, including the lockers by the changing rooms at your pool and gym. You delete any footage immediately after no crime occurs. In this case, you do not have an intent to invade your tenant’s privacy. Your intent is to catch the criminals. Moreover, the tenants do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy by their lockers.

California Voyeurism Criminal Defense Attorney

If you were charged with voyeurism in California, you should talk with a criminal defense attorney immediately. They can help you figure out your legal options and rights. My Rights Law has extensive experience defending people that are charged with sex crimes, including misdemeanors and serious felonies. If you were charged with voyeurism, we are here for you. For more information, reach out to a voyeurism lawyer at My Rights Law for a free consultation by calling (888) 702-8882 or leaving a message on our secure form.

Other sex crimes we defend include: Loitering for Prostitution

FOOTNOTES
[1] California Penal Code 647
[2] American Bar Association – Steps in a Trial
[3] In re M.H. (2016) 1 Cal.App.5th 699.
[4] Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

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