Federal Crime of the Week – Video Voyeurism

As technology invades our lives, so do ways to commit crimes with all this new technology.  Anyone can go online or to Best Buy and Radio Shack and purchase equipment that would only have been available to James Bond several years ago, and it is very easy to get in trouble with it, especially if you use it to spy on other people against their will.  Most states – including Mississippi – have laws making “video voyeurism” illegal.  Video voyeurism is the filming or photographing of people without their knowledge or consent.  Perhaps the most famous incident of video voyeurism lately happened to ESPN Sportscaster Erin Andrews, who was videotaped through a keyhole in her hotel room in Florida.  Incidentally, the person who made that videotape and attempted to sell it on the internet is in the middle of his 30-month federal sentence.

In 2004, the U.S. Congress made video voyeurism a federal crime, although the jurisdictional reach is almost insignificant.  In accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 1801:

Whoever, in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, has the intent to capture an image of a private area of an individual without their consent, and knowingly does so under circumstances in which the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

As I stated, this type of activity is illegal in Mississippi, and I would advise you to assume it is illegal everywhere, but it constitutes a federal crime only if “in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”  This means federal property that includes, but is not limited to, territories, military bases, federal courthouses and office buildings, federal parks (the Natchez Trace), federal prisons, etc.  It does NOT include the entire United States, but only property owned by the United States.

Along with the prison time, if convicted of this crime you almost certainly would be required to register as a sex offender in Mississippi, and most other states, and would suffer the other problems associated with conviction of a sex offense.

If you find yourself charged with this type of crime, the consequences are serious, but the crimes are defensible.  I have handled these types of cases before.  If you would like to discuss it give me a call at 601-991-1099, or send an email to clarence@guthriefirm.com.