California Peeping Tom Laws

Peeping Tom Laws exist to safeguard peoples' privacy. These laws are intended to protect you from voyeurs, nosy neighbors, stalkers, strangers, ex-boyfriends, and perverts. A Peeping Tom refers to a person who obtains sexual gratification by secretly watching others through windows at night. The Peeping Tom laws are contained in California Penal Code sections 647(i) Peeking While Loitering and 647(j) Invasion of Privacy.

“Unlawful peeking” or “peeking while loitering” is a misdemeanor crime that falls under the general umbrella of disorderly conduct. According to California Penal Code section 647(i), it is illegal to peek into the window or door or a structure while loitering on private property having no business with the occupant or owner of the property. California Penal Code Section 647(j) describes the related crime of invasion of privacy, stating that it is illegal to look through a hole or opening into a place where it is reasonable for a person to expect privacy. This includes using devices like binoculars or cameras to invade that privacy.

A person violates Penal Code 647(i) when they:

  • Linger, delay, wander, or prowl on someone else’s property
  • Loiter on private property having no lawful business with the owner or occupant
  • Peek into a window or door of an inhabited building

A person violates Penal Code 647(j) when they:

  • Willingly look through a window, door, or other opening into an inhabited structure
  • Look into an area where a person has a reasonably expectation of privacy (such as a bathroom, bedroom, or dressing room)
  • Use a device, such as a video camera or binoculars, to invade a person’s privacy


A conviction for peeking while loitering is punished by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. For a second or subsequent conviction, or a conviction for invasion of privacy of a minor, the penalties are enhanced to up to one year in jail and/or a fine of $2,000.

A conviction for a violation of either 647(i) or (j) does not require an individual to register as a sex offender unless the court determines that they committed the crimes because of sexual compulsion or for sexual gratification.

Legal Defenses

There are several possible defenses to invasion of privacy that could save an individual from having to serve time in jail or pay expensive fines. These defenses include, but are not limited to:

  • The defendant was not loitering
  • The defendant was not on private property
  • The defendant had a lawful purpose for being on the property
  • The defendant was peeking into an uninhabited building
  • The defendant did not intend to invade anyone’s privacy
  • The defendant didn’t intend to gratify themselves sexually

Experienced & Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyers

Being charged with being a Peeping Tom is serious business. Los Angeles prosecutors have taken a firm stand and vigorously prosecute Peeping Toms and hand out harsh sentences. Consult with an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners who can aggressively and effectively defend your interests. Call our office and learn about any potential defenses and legal options available to you.

If your future is at risk, call to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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