Voyeurism Charges in Michigan: Penalties and Defenses

Voyeurism charges

Continuing the series on sex crimes, today we’re addressing the charge of voyeurism and what it could mean to be charged with this crime in the State of Michigan.

Past generations have had the idea of the “peeping tom” looking into ladies’ windows at night, but now that technology has put a camera in everyone’s hand at all times – with access to the Internet no less – voyeurism cases have increased and the law has had to be expanded to encompass how new technologies are used.

What is Voyeurism?

The crime of voyeurism refers to the act of spying on other people for the purpose of sexual gratification when they are in a place where they may reasonably expect privacy.

In the year 2000, an Isabella County case involving a man using binoculars and a zoom lens to see into the bedroom of a teenage girl led the Michigan Senate to pass a bill that revised the “window peeping” bill previous to be a felony if the victim were a minor. This is the kind of case most people over a certain age think about when they think of “Peeping Toms”, however, voyeurism can take many forms.

For example, in 2003, in Michigan, a woman was awarded $250,000 in damages after being secretly videotaped in a changing room at a modeling agency. Any time a camera, or a cell phone with a camera, is placed in an area for the purpose of making a video of someone who is expecting privacy, this is considered unlawful surveillance.

This would include taking pictures or video of anyone changing in a dressing room, showering in a locker room or use a restroom. It can include taking pictures or video of people in various states of nudity or during sexual activity. It includes using any kind of device to surreptitiously look under or inside someone’s clothing.

When Privacy is Violated

This crime does not have to be committed in public, however, to be a crime. A person may commit this crime inside their own home. If a landlord installs cameras to record tenants or a roommate records their roommates undressing, using the bathroom, taking showers or during sexual activity this is considered a crime.

The law acknowledges an individual’s right to privacy when it comes to their body parts and private sexual activity. When that privacy is violated, the violator has committed a crime. A person can be charged with voyeurism even by taping their own sexual activity if the other party hasn’t given consent.

Unfortunately, with the technological advances we now have, images can be taken and spread in public in a matter of seconds. Even if these types of images are not taken for the purpose of sexual gratification but for some other purpose – as a joke or to degrade or humiliate a victim – this crime is still considered a sex crime.

Penalties for Voyeurism Charges

You may be found guilty of “dissemination of unlawful surveillance image(s)” if you:

  • Publish or sell an image that was unlawfully obtained
  • Disseminate an image that was unlawfully obtained
  • Commits the first degree offense and has prior conviction of the first or second degree offenses.

This is a Class E Felony punishable by up to 4 years in state prison.

We have established that voyeurism is a sex crime. If a person is charged with voyeurism (or unlawful surveillance), he or she may be charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the circumstances.

It’s important to take this charge seriously if you’ve been charged. You could be facing jail time, steep fines, court-ordered counseling, and be placed on probation. Perhaps most troubling of all, you could eventually have to register as a sex offender, which could seriously hurt your chances of having a normal life after you’ve paid the penalty for your crime if you’re convicted.

If you or a loved one is facing voyeurism charges, it is critical that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Please contact my office today.

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