With the advent of cell phone cameras, voyeurism has expanded to an entirely new level. Because police and prosecutors know these cases can get media attention, they tend to be overly aggressive with charges. There is a defense to every case and a good lawyer gives you the best chance of avoiding a conviction and jail time.
What exactly is voyeurism?
Voyeurism is spying on someone for the purpose of sexual gratification. Voyeurism involves a victim who is in a place they reasonably believe is private (bathroom, bedroom, dressing room, etc.) and a person who takes advantage of the victim’s belief they are in private. The law has three components and focuses: spying on someone who is either scantily dressed (underwear) or who is naked, taking pictures of such people, and distributing such pictures to others.
These crimes have taken on an extra degree of concern because if sensitive pictures have been taken with a cell phone, the pictures could be sent to social media or shared with a network of other voyeurs in seconds. Michigan law provides for stiff penalties, and these cases often attract media attention, which adds another unpleasant dimension to any criminal penalties.
Innocent people are sometimes charged with voyeurism. Willing participants in photographs can lie and say they were unaware that a photograph or video was being taken of them. There are several defenses to these charges as will be explained more fully below.
Penalties for Voyeurism
- First Offense Simple Voyeurism: Felony; 2 years in prison, 5 years of court supervised probation, and a $2,000.00 fine;
- First Offense Photographing or Recording a Person in Underwear or Naked: Felony; 2 years in prison, 5 years of court supervised probation, and a $2,000.00 fine;
- First Offense Distributing, Disseminating or Transmitting a Photograph or Recording of a Person in Underwear or Naked: Felony; 2 years in prison, 5 years of court supervised probation, and a $2,000.00 fine;
- Second Offense Simple Voyeurism: Felony; 5 years in prison, 5 years of court supervised probation, and a $5,000.00 fine;
- Second Offense Photographing or Recording a Person in Underwear or Naked: Felony; 5 years in prison, 5 years of court supervised probation, and a $5,000.00 fine;
- Second Offense Distributing, Disseminating or Transmitting a Photograph or Recording of a Person in Underwear or Naked: Felony; 5 years in prison, 5 years of court supervised probation, and a $5,000.00 fine;
It is also a crime to install any hidden cameras or microphones without a victim’s knowledge in order to secretly record their actions or speech: First offense: 2 year in prison, 5 years of court supervised probation, and a $2,000.00 fine. Second offense: 5 years in prison, 5 years of court supervised probation, and a $5,000.00 fine. Recording or listening in on the conversations of others is known as eavesdropping, which is similar to voyeurism but is a different crime, and has no sexual gratification requirement.
A person can be charged with both setting up a secret surveillance system and using it. A person can also be charged with any other crime that may have taken place, such as trespassing or breaking and entering in order to set up a surveillance system.
Furthermore, a person convicted of voyeurism will undoubtedly be required to undergo extensive counseling and psychiatric treatment above and beyond the typical requirements of a felony conviction. This, as well as the media attention these cases normally generate, can add up to an extremely onerous, expensive, and embarrassing ordeal. Another facet of the ordeal is SORA, Michigan’s Sex Offender Registration Act. If the victim of voyeurism is less than 18 years old, a convicted person will have to register with the state-wide tracking system, in full view of the entire population.
Defenses to Voyeurism
Sexual Gratification – The law requires that defendants surveilled or photographed a victim for sexual gratification. This is not easy to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. If any legitimate reason for cameras exists, such as home or business security, and if there are no photographs or tapes, this would be a very defensible charge.
No Reasonable Expectation of Privacy – People understand that if they go outdoors with a bathing suit on, they should not expect privacy. Plenty of people go to pools, the beach, boating, etc. in very revealing bathing suits. In fact, a typical bikini is sometimes more revealing than underwear, which the law covers. Taking a photograph or video of someone at a public beach is not a crime. However, if a person installs a camera in a changing room at a pool or beach, that could very well be a crime because the bather has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Consent – If a defendant can show that the person who was watched or photographed consented to such, that would be a defense. It is usually apparent if the person being watched is aware of it, and consent can be difficult to establish without additional evidence.
Open and Obvious – If a camera is open and obvious, or if signs are posted warning of the presence of cameras, it would be argued that the alleged victim was fully aware of the fact that a camera was there and it would have been unreasonable to expect privacy. An unreasonable expectation of privacy is treated as a form of consent.
A person cannot record themselves in a picture or tape for the purpose of sexual gratification with another person unless the other person has consented. This differs from eavesdropping in that a person can record any conversation they are a party to, with or without the consent of the other person. The same is not true for video recording of scantily clad or naked activities.
Voyeurism Defense Attorneys in Michigan
If you are under investigation or charged with voyeurism in Michigan, you will need a top-rated, reputable and determined criminal defense attorney to have a chance at getting the charges dismissed and avoiding jail time.
Every lawyer with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has extensive experience in a practice solely focused on providing the highest caliber of criminal defense possible. Since 1998, our Defense Team has diligently worked to develop techniques and strategies that have proven to be successful in achieving dismissals, winning motions, sentences without incarceration, and other extremely favorable results. No lawyer can ethically promise or guarantee any particular result; however, our lawyers can promise and guarantee that we will do everything reasonably possible to help our clients achieve the best achievable results.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation, or complete a Request for Assistance Form and we will contact you promptly.