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How Can Your Phone's Camera Get You In Trouble with the Law?

Legal Columns

These days, if you have a cell phone, the device might also have a camera capable of taking photos or videos. If you use your camera to photograph or video someone who is in a place where they expect privacy and do not consent to the intrusion, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony.

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Video Voyeurism

Voyeurism refers to the act of watching others for some type of personal pleasure. Typically, the conduct involves observing someone who is undressing or naked and the observer is sexually gratified by what they're seeing.

Video voyeurism is voyeuristic conduct that is captured on a recording device. In Arkansas, engaging is such an act is illegal. According to A.C.A. § 5-16-101, no person shall use any recording device to secretly watch another individual.

For the conduct to be considered illegal, the observer must have:

  • Recorded someone in a private area, such as a residence, school, or room;
  • Done so knowing that the other individual had a reasonable expectation of privacy; and
  • Engaged in the conduct without having permission from the other person to do so

Likewise, it is also illegal for a person to use a recording device to secretly take photos or videos of someone else's body. Again, the conduct must have been done without consent and out of public view (where the other individual had a reasonable expectation of privacy).

What the law means is that if you are using your cell phone's camera to record a hike you and your family went on, you're not breaking the law. However, if you stop in a restroom along the trail and take a video of another hiker while they're in there with you, you could be facing charges.

When Is Video Voyeurism a Misdemeanor and When Is It a Felony?

If you take a photo or video of a portion of someone's body without their consent, you may be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. If convicted, the maximum term of imprisonment you could face is 90 days. Additionally, you could be ordered to pay a fine of up to $1,000.

If any of the following apply in your case, the charge increases to a Class A misdemeanor:

  • You sent the photo or video to someone else;
  • You post the photo or video online; or
  • You were previously convicted of a voyeurism offense

Class A misdemeanors carry a term of imprisonment of up to 1 year and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

Video voyeurism is elevated to a Class D felony if you recorded someone in a private area without their consent and when they had a reasonable expectation of privacy. A conviction may result in up to 6 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. A third or subsequent offense is a Class C felony and is punishable by up to 10 years' imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.

Are you facing criminal charges in Northwest Arkansas? At Norwood & Norwood, P.A., our defense attorneys are ready to provide the legal counsel you need to protect your rights and freedom. Schedule a free initial visit by calling us at (479) 235-4600 or submitting an online contact form.