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What are the laws on surveillance

What are the laws on surveillance

Note: Inspite of the information we are providing here, we still advise that you check with your local laws. The information we provide below is a general reference and not a final translation of your state and local laws.

Some General Guidelines on video surveillance
In general, most video recordings are legal in the U.S. with or without consent. Laws do exist regarding "Invasion of Privacy" which deals with the area of expected privacy. These include areas such as bathrooms, locker rooms, changing/dressing rooms, bedrooms and other areas where a person should expect a high level of personal privacy.

While the majority of laws dealing with video recording privacy issues tend to allow surreptitious recording and monitoring of video activity under most circumstances without notification of any of the parties involved, it is highly recommended that you consult with your local or state law enforcement or an attorney who specializes in this area to comply with all local and regulations prior to utilization of video surveillance and monitoring.

Your private investigator is well versed in such laws and as a rule of thumb; you should not have to worry about this when hiring a professional investigator. Nonetheless, this may affect your case in some ways. It is important that you realize that unlike Hollywood's version of spousal surveillance, Private investigators will not peek into windows, hide in the bathroom, put a micro-camera under the door, etc. They will NOT plant hidden cameras in cars, bed rooms or other places either.

Hidden Camera Laws
The laws of 13 states expressly prohibit the unauthorized installation or use of cameras in private places. A private place is one where a person may reasonably expect to be safe from unauthorized surveillance, locker rooms, restrooms etc. Several states have laws prohibiting the use of hidden cameras in only certain circumstances, such as in locker rooms or restrooms, or for the purpose of viewing a person in a state of partial or full nudity.

Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michagin, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Utah also prohibit trespassing on private property to conduct surveillance of people there.

In Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Utah, installation or use of any device for photographing, observing or overhearing events or sounds in a private place without permission of the people photographed or observed is against the law.

Covert video surveillance is illegal when:
The subject has a reasonable expectation of privacy (4th Amendment rights) i.e. in a bathroom; motel room; changing room

If audio eavesdropping is also taking place, covert surveillance may be illegal when:
The person with authority over the premises has not consented
The reason for the video surveillance fosters an illegal purpose


Audio Recording with Surveillance Cameras

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, say that the law concerning recording of conversations is not "settled" yet, because the technology is so new, there is a patchwork of federal, state, and local laws governing the manufacture, sale, transport, and use of video and audio recording devices. The patchwork is complex because the federal laws don’t pre-empt the local ones. So your local jurisdiction could make a law more stringent than the federal one, or the state one. Each jurisdiction is so different.

Very often, the audio picked up by a video camera is covered by the same laws as wiretapping and eavesdropping. Those laws vary by state.

There is a general rule, however, that applies to the kind of conversations a business security camera or nanny-cam would pick up.

"Regardless of the state, it is almost always illegal to record a conversation to which you are not a party, do not have consent to tape, and could not naturally overhear."

This is pretty much the definition of "eavesdropping" and is according to: The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

The RCFP has a very helpful summary of each State’s eavesdropping and wiretapping laws.

We hope this has been helpful, each of us are, in the end, responsible to supply information regarding video and recording laws, but as was stated there are so many grey areas that you should also consult a lawyer, as well as the local authorities in the specific areas you intend to use the devices.

As listed above the general rule of thumb is still the simple answer:

"Regardless of the state, it is almost always illegal to record a conversation to which you are not a party, do not have consent to tape, and could not naturally overhear."

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