A voyeur is a person who derives sexual pleasure by secretly watching, photographing, filming, or video recording another person or persons engaged in intimate activities such as undressing, bathing, sexual acts, or other activities usually considered to be of a private nature and in places or locations where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. A male voyeur is commonly referred to as a Peeping Tom.
In California, voyeurs can be charged and prosecuted under two Disorderly Conduct laws:
1) Penal Code Section 647(i) –Peeking / Loitering:
It is unlawful for a person to linger, loiter, prowl, or wander into another's property and
peek in the window or door of an inhabited building or structure without any visible or lawful business with the owner or occupant. "Loiter" means to delay or linger without a lawful purpose for being on the property and for the purpose of committing a crime as opportunity may be discovered.
2) Penal Code Section 647(j) - Invasion of Privacy: It is unlawful to do any of the following:
- Look through a hole or any opening or use any visual or recording device to view into a bathroom, bedroom, changing or fitting room, dressing room, tanning booth or the interior of any other area in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, with the intent to invade the privacy of the person or persons inside. This may be accomplished with the naked eye or by use of an instrument including but not limited to, periscope, telescope, binoculars, or cameras (film camera, video camera, or mobile phone). Penal Code section 647(j)(1).
- Use a concealed camcorder, film camera, mobile phone, or photographic camera of any type, to secretly videotape, film, photograph, or record by any electronic means another person under or through the person's clothing, for the purpose of viewing the person's body or undergarments, without the person's knowledge, for the purpose of sexual arousal and with the intent to invade the person's privacy, under circumstances in which the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Penal Code section 647(j)(2).
- Use a concealed camcorder, film camera, or photographic camera of any type, to secretly videotape, film, photograph, or record by electronic means, another person who may be in a state of partial or full undress, for the purpose of viewing the body of, or the undergarments worn by the person, without the consent or knowledge of the other person, in the interior of a bedroom, bathroom, changing room fitting room, dressing room, tanning booth, or any interior location that a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, with the intent to invade the privacy of that other person. Penal Code section 647(j)(3).
A conviction for voyeurism is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to six months in county jail. Although the maximum sentence for a voyeur conviction is not significant, the stigma of a voyeur conviction can follow you for a long time. If you are facing voyeurism charges, consult with an experienced sex crimes defense attorney to learn all about your rights, defenses, and legal options.