February 14, 2023

Voyeurism is a crime in many states. In this article, we’ll define the term “voyeurism” and discuss state and federal laws relating to it.

Key Takeaways

  • Voyeurism is the act of secretly viewing another person in a place where they would reasonably expect privacy
  • Exact laws about voyeurism vary from state to state, with some specifying details about intent and body parts viewed and others not having voyeurism statutes at all
  • The Video Voyeurism Protection Act of 2004 makes it a federal crime to secretly capture images of people on the federal property when they have a reasonable expectation of privacy

What Is Voyeurism?

Voyeurism is the crime of secretly viewing another person in a private place. An important part of the definition of the crime of voyeurism is that it occurs in a place where one would reasonably expect privacy. This includes:

  • Places where a reasonable person would believe that they could undress in privacy without being photographed or filmed
  • Places where one may reasonably expect to be safe from surveillance or intrusion 

Voyeurism State Laws

Each state has its own laws defining what exactly voyeurism is and how it is punished. Some states describe what part of the anatomy must be viewed, while others distinguish that the perpetrator must have had the intent to peep. 

There are states that also prohibit people from photographing or videotaping another person without their consent while observing them in a private place such as their home. And at least one state makes it illegal for voyeurs to sell or distribute pictures or videos that they take. 

Note that even in states where photographing or videotaping people without their consent is not specifically addressed in the law, if these images are sold, the victim can bring a civil action for damages related to invasion of privacy. 

Additionally, even states that do not have specific voyeurism statutes often still criminalize the behavior associated with voyeurism under statutes such as breach of peace, disorderly conduct, and trespass.

For more details about exact state statutes related to voyeurism, see this report

Voyeurism Federal Law

The Video Voyeurism Protection Act of 2004 makes it a federal crime to secretly capture images of people on federal property in situations in which they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. 

Federal privacy laws such as the Federal Privacy Act of 1974, the Privacy Protection Act of 1980, and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 penalize the use of computers or the internet to transmit obscene or lewd materials. However, these laws do not protect victims of voyeurism from having their images displayed online.

If you have been a victim of voyeurism, you may be able to take civil and criminal action. It is recommended that you speak to an experienced lawyer who has worked on voyeurism cases in the past. They will be able to review your case and recommend next steps.

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