CCTV Surveillance camera Laws
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CCTV Surveillance Camera Laws

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WECU cannot give you legal advice on any CCTV law enquiry!

You must check your state and locals laws for what is legal in your area regardless of what is posted on this site. References here are exactly that, it is up to You to contact your local authorities, and abide by the rules in your area.

Hidden Camera Laws

The laws of 13 states expressly prohibit the unauthorized installation or use of cameras in private places.
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.

A private place is one where a person may reasonably expect to be safe from unauthorized surveillance. 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 hidden cameras is a felony, punishable by a 2000.00 fine and up to 2 years in prison.
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.

The above information is intended to give you basic information of "hidden" camera laws that are in your state. We strongly advise you consult your local & state laws before installing any "hidden" camera.

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.

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
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
Covert video surveillance should be avoided when:
  • A less intrusive, legal investigative method is equally available.
  • Whenever you feel uncertain about the legality or ethics of installation


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.

You can find The Center for Social & Legal Research website for privacy issues at: For example in California, the Penal Code states:

" 635. (a) Every person who manufactures, assembles, sells, offers for sale, advertises for sale, possesses, transports, imports, or furnishes to another any device which is primarily or exclusively designed or intended for eavesdropping upon the communication of another, or any device which is primarily or exclusively designed or intended for the unauthorized interception or reception of communications between cellular radio telephones or between a cellular radio telephone and a landline telephone in violation of Section 632.5, or communications between cordless telephones or between a cordless telephone and a landline telephone in violation of Section 632.6, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison, or by both that fine and imprisonment. If the person has previously been convicted of a violation of this section, the person shall be punished by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison, or by both that fine and imprisonment. "

The California code does make exceptions for those providing the devices for federal, state, or local law enforcement officers, or public utilities.

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 States eavesdropping and wiretapping laws.

Here is part of that sites synopsis of Florida law:

" Fla. Stat. ch. 934.03: All parties must consent to the recording or the disclosure of the contents of any wire, oral or electronic communication in Florida. Recording or disclosing without the consent of all parties is a felony, unless the interception is a first offense committed without any illegal purpose, and not for commercial gain, or the communication is the radio portion of a cellular conversation. Such first offenses and the interception of cellular communications are misdemeanours. State v. News-Press Pub. Co., 338 So. 2d 1313 (1976), State v. Tsavaris, 394 So. 2d 418 (1981). "

You can go there and click on your state to see the general laws applicable to your application, you may also need to consult attorneys.

Also, to find out whether your state, has a specific law addressing hidden cameras, go to the RCFP "Tape Recording Laws at a Glance"

24 states do have specific hidden camera laws. Also, some states have laws REQUIRING a notice or posting that there is surveillance equipment. Once a sign is posted that surveillance is going on, you could say that people talking near the sign are " consenting " to that recording.

Because Video Security Cameras are often referred to as " Spy Cams " and " Nanny-Cams ", it is obvious that they are frequently used without the knowledge of those who are being observed, which could be illegal because there is no consent.

There is an article in the UCLA Journal of Law and Technology, titled " Nanny-cams and Privacy. " Jessica Sann writes:

" States vary on this particular issue, but most agree that a videotaping your nanny without her knowledge is perfectly legal so long as there is no sound. Audio taping without the nanny's consent is an issue upon which the states are split. "

Some experts recommend telling the nanny she will be monitored, and getting her consent in writing from the start. This protects the parents from prosecution, and helps prevent any abuse of the child. After all, they say the object is to prevent the child from being hurt, not to catch someone in the act of abusing.

Click here to read Sann's article (its short) or read below.

To find a lawyer to help with your questions, try the Martindale Hubbell Lawyer Locator

Also find the following very useful:

" Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P., Electronics, 865 South Figueroa Street, 29th Floor, Los Angeles, California, 90017-2571, (Los Angeles Co.)

Group Profile: Tech-Wise Legal Representation. Fulbright & Jaworski offers comprehensive legal services to companies that manufacture, distribute or use electronic products worldwide. We work with household names and start-up companies in litigation "

Fulbright & Jaworski also have offices in Washington, DC, New York and Texas.

There are some 300 law firms that specialize in privacy law, two that have been mentioned are:
  • Oldaker, Biden & Belair LLP
    818 Connecticut Avenue, N.W. Suite 1100
    Washington, District of Columbia

  • Or

  • Wilmer Cutler Pickering LLP
    2445 M Street, N.W., Washington, District Of Columbia 20037-1420 (Main Office)
    Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering also has offices in Maryland and New York.
Here are a few other useful links: If you would like to some other searches for information like this on the net you may want to try a Google search strategy:
  • Audio recording + legal issues
  • Audio recording + privacy rights
  • Audio recording + privacy law
  • Legal + privacy rights
  • Security cameras + vendors
  • Hidden camera + illegal
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."


Nanny-Cams and our Privacy
by Jessica Sann

We all have expectations of privacy in private places. But should we expect privacy in the home of another? The answer is NO.

Parents and other proponents of nanny-cams argue that the installation of a hidden camera in their own home is not an invasion of privacy.

The court has agreed, in State v. Diaz, 706 A.2d 264 (1998), the leading case on this topic, the court ruled that a videotape made by a hidden camera in the residence of the parents of the child was admissible as evidence in the lawsuit against the nanny for assault and child endangerment. The court decided that since there was an absence of state action, the Constitution did not protect the nanny's privacy in someone else's house. The court also held that a videotape without sound did not violate the Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act, but furthermore, that sound was admissible because the parents had consented to their child being taped.

States vary on this particular issue, but most agree that a videotaping your nanny without her knowledge is perfectly legal so long as there is no sound. Audio taping without the nanny's consent is an issue upon which the states are split.

Websites that cater to parents urge installation of these cameras, and sell them in innocent looking packages - one looks like an air purifier, another like a stuffed animal. They also recommend that you do not tell the babysitter that the camera is present on the theory that nobody will expose her true nature when she is being watched. This raises the issue of what the cameras are really for - to protect children or to prosecute the offenders. It seems that the objective for parents should be to prevent the harm from happening in the first place, instead of prosecuting it after the fact. If a parent suspects abuse, the parent should advise the babysitter about a camera rather than installing one secretly. Otherwise, it seems that the parent is allowing the harm to happen, when he or she could have prevented it, and just as culpable as the babysitter.

In a system where we do not punish for thought, only for actions, it seems inconsistent to install secret cameras without warning to those who will be videotaped. After all, we don't care whether someone refrains from committing a crime because of the threat of punishment or because of a moral value - we only care that the person refrains from committing crime. One parent suggests that you do tell the nanny she will be taped during the initial interview - if she has a problem with it, do not hire her.

One camera vendor claims that even if the criminal knows about the camera, it may not deter her. When would-be criminals know they are being taped, they are only on their best behavior for a while, and then revert to their criminal behavior.

The court's admission of nanny-cam evidence, along with the increasing popularity of nanny-cams seems to indicate the start of an alarming trend where people use hidden cameras in their houses, not just to prosecute severe criminal wrongs, but to monitor all behavior. When people watch the tapes of their nanny, most of the time they see inadequate care, not abuse. Most parents who have video surveillance are unhappy when they see how the nanny is behaving.
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