Video Voyeurism in St. Petersburg / Clearwater Florida
Pinellas County Video Voyeurism Defense Attorney
In an age where nearly everyone has a video camera in their pocket in the form of a “Smart Phone,” arrests for the criminal charge of “Video Voyeurism” have significantly increased in Pinellas County over the past decade. In Florida, Video Voyeurism is defined by Florida Statute 810.145 as intentionally using or installing an imaging device to secretly view, broadcast, or record a person, without that person’s knowledge and consent, who is dressing, undressing, or privately exposing the body, at a place and time when that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. The statute further requires that this conduct occur for the defendant’s own amusement, entertainment, sexual arousal, gratification, or profit, or for the purpose of degrading or abusing another person. Often times, these offenses involve secretly recording a sexual encounter, or utilizing a camera to surreptitiously look up the skirt of an unsuspecting woman.
Video Voyeurism Involving a Child
The Florida Legislature has established increased penalties and mandatory sex offender designation in scenarios where the unsuspecting subject of the video voyeurism is a minor. In that regard, Florida Statute 810.145(8) imposes enhanced sanctions under the following circumstances:
- If the Defendant was 24 years of age or older and the child was under the age of 16. It is important to note that it is NOT a defense if the Defendant was unaware of the age of the child;
- If the Defendant was over the age of 18 and was responsible for the child’s welfare and the child was under the age of 16; or
- If the Defendant was employed by a school and the child was enrolled as a student at the school.
Penalties for Video Voyeurism
The penalties for the offense of Video Voyeurism vary depending on the age of the Defendant, age of the victim, and prior record of the Defendant. In that regard, the maximum penalties for video voyeurism are:
Video Voyeurism – Defendant is under the Age of 19
In a scenario where the Defendant is under the age of 19, the legislature has classified video voyeurism as a first-degree misdemeanor. The maximum possible penalties for a first-degree misdemeanor are 365 days in the Pinellas County Jail, $1,000.00 fine, and 12 months of probation.
Video Voyeurism – Defendant is 19 Years of Age or Older, Victim Over the Age of 16
In a scenario where the Defendant is 19 years of age or older, and the victim is over the age of 16, the legislature has classified Video Voyeurism as a third-degree felony. The maximum possible penalties under these circumstances can involve 5 years of incarceration in the Department of Corrections, 5 years of probation and up to $5,000.00 in fines.
Video Voyeurism – Defendant has a Prior Conviction for Video Voyeurism, Regardless of Age of the Defendant or Victim
Like many crimes, the Florida legislature has enacted enhanced penalties where the Defendant has previously been convicted of Video Voyeurism. In a scenario where the Defendant has previously been convicted of this offense, the legislature has classified the offense as a second-degree felony. The maximum penalties under these circumstances can involve up to 15 years incarceration in the Department of Corrections, 15 years of probation, and up to $10,000.00 in fines.
Video Voyeurism – Victim is a Child
Much like the scenario where the Defendant has previously been convicted of a Video Voyeurism, the penalties for this offense where the victim is a child are those of a second-degree felony. Thus, the maximum penalties can include up to 15 years of incarceration, 15 years of probation and fines of up to $10,000.00. Moreover, a conviction under this scenario would require the Court to designate the Defendant as a Registered Sex Offender.
A Video Voyeurism Conviction Leaves a Permanent Blemish
Generally speaking, a person who enters a plea to a criminal offense who does not have any previous convictions and has never previously sealed or expunged the record of any arrest may petition the Court to seal the record of his or her arrest. However, the legislature has enumerated a list of certain criminal offenses that are ineligible to petition the Court to seal the record of arrest upon the entry of a plea or a finding of guilt. Thus, unlike many offenses, a person who enters a plea or is convicted of the criminal offense of Video Voyeurism is ineligible to Seal or Expunge the record of his arrest.
Possible Solutions and Defenses to the Charge of Video Voyeurism
Just because an arrest for Video Voyeurism has occurred, that does not necessarily mean that the Defendant is going to be convicted of the offense. Although every case is different and requires the special attention of a highly rated criminal defense lawyer, the following are several defenses that tend to arise during Video Voyeurism cases:
Search and Seizure Issues Relating to the Recording Device Itself
Both the United States’ and Florida Constitutions protect citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures. A cell phone, or other recording device, is considered personal property that is entitled to the protections of the constitution. In some cases, the State Attorney or law enforcement does not properly secure a search warrant to review the contents of the cell phone or other recording device. In some cases, these illegal searches are subject to attack by the filing of a “Motion to Suppress” arguing that the evidence gathered is inadmissible as “fruit of the poisonous tree.”
Factual Defense – Consent
There are some cases where the subject of a recording initially consented to being recorded, only later to have “buyer’s remorse” for agreeing to be videotaped. Of course, a key element to the successful prosecution of “Video Voyeurism” is that the “victim” did NOT consent to being recorded.
Factual Defense – Lack of an Expectation of Privacy
If the “victim” exposed his or her sexual organs in an area where he or she did NOT have an expectation of privacy, the Defendant who recorded such conduct may have an absolute defense to the charge of Video Voyeurism. Thus, if a woman were to expose her breasts on a public beach in Clearwater, Treasure Island, or St. Petersburg, it is likely that a Court might conclude that she did not have an expectation of privacy in such a public and highly trafficked area. Nevertheless, it may be unlawful to distribute or otherwise disseminate a recording of such conduct, even if the “victim” did not have an expectation of privacy.
Legal Defense – Exception to Video Voyeurism – Security Cameras and Surveillance Systems
In some cases, a security camera or other surveillance system captures an individual disrobing or otherwise exposing themselves. In this scenario, so long as notice of the system is posted, or if the presence of the security cameras are conspicuous and immediately obvious, a Defendant may have an absolute defense to the charge of Video Voyeurism. That being said, Florida Statute 877.26 provides that it is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in the Pinellas County Jail to place such a recording device in a changing room, restroom stall, or other area where a customer would have an expectation of privacy.
Contact the Highly Experienced Attorneys at Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan if you have been charged with Video Voyeurism
If you or a loved one has been charged with Video Voyeurism in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Dunedin, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor, Largo, St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island, Gulfport, Pasadena, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, Redington Shores, Madeira Beach and Belleair, contact our top-rated Criminal Defense Lawyers for a free consultation. During our meeting, we will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your case, as well as identify any defenses that might exist. Call our office today at (727) 578-0303 to schedule a free consultation.