5 Ways a Hidden Camera Can Land You In Prison

4 min read

Hidden cameras are everywhere. They’re in homes, businesses, cars and purses, catching burglars and terrible babysitters but they’re also dangerous to the owner and unwilling participants of the recorded videos that have been created by these devices.

Here are 5 ways these hidden cameras can land you in jail

Hidden Home Recordings

Many of us are familiar with the hidden camera in a Teddy bear or miniature security cameras built into clocks and radios. Home domain protects you when it comes to video recording inside your home or the perimeter for security reasons, even if the cameras are seen or hidden, but there are two ways you can get in trouble for the recordings. Transmitting or giving the video to a third party for any reason other than law enforcement or to a licensed investigator investigating a crime is prohibited under most statutes. 2nd, adding the recorded video to YouTube or other Internet outlets for others to see when the video is recorded on someone else’s private land or premises without all the parties involved consenting may be a state offense and can land you in state prison for up to 6 months with a considerable fine, not including civil lawsuits that can come up.

Hidden Business Recordings

The laws of 13 states expressly prohibit the unauthorized installation or use of cameras in private places within businesses and schools. 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 the permission of the people photographed or observed is against the law. A private place is one where a person may reasonably expect to be safe from unauthorized surveillance.

In most cases, dressing rooms, break rooms, bathrooms, and locker rooms are prohibited under law from having a sound or video recording device present.

Overturned May 2012 Recording Police Officers During an Arrest

On First Amendment grounds, a federal appeals court in May blocked enforcement of an Illinois law that makes it a felony to take video—with sound—of police officers on the job.

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the American Civil Liberties Union in challenging the Illinois eavesdropping law. Up until recently, you could be fined up to $2,500 and serve up to 2 years in jail but there is still a fine line in the ruling. The ruling lists several kinds of conversations someone might be having with a police officer on the street, that the person would not want recorded and put out on the internet or the evening news.

Privacy is a social value,” Posner, the circuit court judge wrote. “And so, of course, is public safety.” He contends that the majority’s decision puts both in danger.

“A fine line separates “mere” recording of a police-citizen encounter (whether friendly or hostile) from obstructing police operations by distracting the officers and upsetting the citizens they are speaking with.”

In other words, it’s still a murky subject.

Video and Sound Recording a Two-Way Conversation

Of the 50 states, 38, as well as the District of Columbia, allow you to record a conversation to which you are a party without informing the other parties you are doing so. Federal wiretap statutes also permit this so-called one-party consent recording of telephone conversations in most circumstances. Twelve states forbid the recording of private conversations without the consent of all parties. Those states are California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Bringing a Hidden Camera With You

In 2008, a former University of Illinois and USA Olympic gymnastics coach was under investigation involving a video camera that was found hidden in a University of Illinois locker room.

Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Utah also prohibit trespassing on private property to conduct surveillance of people there. In most of these states, unauthorized installation or use of a hidden camera, or trespassing to install or use one, is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine. In Maine, a privacy violation is a felony. In Michigan, unauthorized installation or use of a hidden camera is a felony, punishable by a $2,000 fine and up to two years in prison.

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  1. 1
    Pastor Adegboyega Alagba

    I like to have a comprehensive information on this subject to be delivered to my box for my private use.

  2. 3
    Patrick Salgado

    I was wondering what the boundaries are for using a hidden gopro to record the food and dining experience of a restaurant. I would of course blur out any and all faces that happen to be shown and will not be recording the audio of others conversations. The main priority is to film the food experience for a YouTube channel. How can I do this without creating any legal issues or having to have the restaurants permission as I wish to stay anonymous. Again, this would strictly be to capture the food experience and not include any of the other diners.

    • 4

      Remember, restaurants are public places. As long as you are capturing food and blurring out the faces of the restaurant patrons, you shouldn’t have any legal problems. The problem that may occur is during the times you give a bad revue and the owner or manager of the establishment wishes to sue you for improperly capturing videos or pictures in their restaurant. This is usually a scare tactic to get you to take down your video or pictures. Most suits never make it to court because they are usually thrown out before being heard. Yelp and other platforms experience lawsuits like these often but to date, they rarely have cases that result in a takedown.

  3. 5
    Rick S.

    I ave a friend in Michigan that just found out her male room mate installed a hidden video camera in their living room without telling her. He always goes to be early and she tends to stay up late. They share the same bedroom, but sleep in separate beds, which is why she stays up late. It’s the only time she feels she can get some privacy. The camera is mounted so he has full view of where she always sits. She found the box for it, so she knows it records audio as well.

    Is this a violation of her privacy? Can he be prosecuted under Michigan law?

    • 6

      Under Michigan law, she is aware of the camera within her living space so according to Michigan, this is not against the law. She can request the camera to be removed but she can’t ask for prosecution if she’s aware of the camera taking live video or pictures within the living space. Also, if pictures are published to social media or other outlets, she may find it difficult to have them taken down unless deemed pornographic or private in nature. My suggestion is to have the camera removed.

  4. 7
    Joe Stephens

    In NYS my former employer installed a hidden camera across my desk inside an outlet. Not certain if had audio. They began disciplinary action against me after 8 years clean service ranging from using my phone to eating, time management etc. This occurred after I reported covid violations to State authorities. Is this legal?

    • 8

      Joe, you may want to contact a lawyer. Retaliating measures against whistleblowers is a serious offense.

    • 10

      Actually yes. In places where people expect to have total privacy, you have to announce the presence of video cameras.

  5. 11

    May 6 we were scheduled for our annual inspection by the property manager. When she was inspecting I noticed she started video taping my personal things. She said it was a new policy by the management company. We were not notified in advance and she refused to stop video taping. I feel violated …is this legal

    • 12

      It varies from state to state but recording ones personal items is suspect and usually requires written permission in your contract or lease.

  6. 13

    I inherited a house from my deceased father and he verbally told my stepmom and made her record his wishes….One year after he has passed she is trying to sell the house and keep the money. Many of my Family members including my brother or witnesses to my dad’s wishes is there anything I can do

    • 14

      A video recording goes Above and beyond a verbal agreement. You should be able to take this to a lawyer so it can be transcribed as a contract. Depending on the state, witnesses may need to sign an affidavit saying that they were present during the recording to make the contract legal and binding.

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