Florida Voyeurism Attorney
Experienced Defense from Musca Law
Voyeurism is defined as observing another person without their knowledge and with indecent or lewd and lascivious intent. In layman terms, these people are often known as peeping toms. Voyeurism can damage your business, devastate your family life, and destroy any chances at future employment opportunities. A skilled defense is imperative to your success and is your best chance at obtaining lessened or dismissed charges.
Musca Law Florida voyeurism attorneys have more than 150 years of experience and will fight tirelessly on your behalf. After evaluating your case, we can immediately begin a defense that will ensure your rights are upheld throughout case proceedings. We are dedicated to your success!
Voyeurism and Video Voyeurism Criminal Defense Lawyers in Florida (FL)
Let Our Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers Advocate for You
If you have been accused of voyeurism or video voyeurism in the state of Florida, contact Musca Law today. Voyeurism charges can often be accompanied by additional criminal charges, like stalking and cyberstalking, and you could be facing serious penalties with a conviction for any of these crimes. Our lawyers can help you understand the allegations against you and defend your liberties. Contact us today for a free case review.
Definition of Voyeurism
The act of voyeurism is defined as when a person is observing another person in a lascivious, indecent manner and with indecent intent while the person is located in a structure such as a house, hotel, or any other place where they have the reasonable expectation of privacy. It may also involve video voyeurism, which is the act of voyeurism that is being videotaped.
What Does ‘Voyeurism’ Mean Under Florida Law?
Under Florida Statute § 810.14, “voyeurism” is the act of secretly watching someone while he or she is inside a house or building where he or she would reasonably expect to have privacy. Voyeurism also includes secretly observing someone’s “intimate areas” while he or she is inside a house or public or private building. Under the law, “intimate areas” mean all portions of the body intended to be protected from public view and that are covered by clothing. Intimate areas can include undergarments.
Examples of voyeurism might include:
- So-called “Peeping Tom” incidents
- Observing someone in a bathroom stall
- Observing someone in a dressing room
- Watching someone through a window, vent, opening, or hole
It is important to understand that in order to be considered voyeurism, the accused must have acted with intent. The law in Florida says that the accused must have acted with “lewd, lascivious, or indecent” intent. If a person did not act with the requisite intent, the charge of voyeurism is not appropriate. In other words, if someone is walking by a home and accidentally sees a person undressing next to an open window, the person should not be charged with voyeurism.
Charges can sometimes arise from instances of mistakes like this, and you need experienced attorneys to help you fight against a conviction. Musca Law has the varied and extensive criminal defense experience you need to protest voyeurism offenses.
What are the Penalties for Voyeurism?
Voyeurism is a severely punishable crime in the eyes of the Florida law. Penalties increase due to circumstances such as whether or not the offender was a first time offender or a repeat offender.
- A first degree misdemeanor
- Up to 1 year in prison
- Payment of a $1000 fine
- A third degree felony
- Up to 5 years in prison
- Payment of a $5,000 fine
These are just the direct effects of the penalty. Charges like these could additionally impact other areas of your life, such as employment, relationships, education, housing, and more.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, a conviction for voyeurism in Florida can mean jail time and significant fines. For the first offense, the crime of voyeurism will be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. This level of misdemeanor can result in one year in jail and a fine of $1,000.
Like many other crimes in Florida, the charges and accompanying penalties for voyeurism increase with additional offenses. If a person has been convicted of voyeurism twice in Florida, the third offense will be charged as a third-degree felony. This level of felony can result in five years in prison and a fine of $5,000.
A person convicted of the crime of voyeurism in Florida will also have a permanent criminal record. Following conviction, you will never have the opportunity to have your records sealed. This can have real consequences in your life, including difficulty obtaining housing and employment.
What is Video Voyeurism?
Voyeurism charges in Florida are also frequently characterized as “video voyeurism.” Video voyeurism, according to Florida § 810.145, is the act of secretly recording someone in an intimate state, typically for purposes of sexual interest or gratification. Occasionally, people will also be charged with video voyeurism if they record for the purposes of amusement, entertainment, gratification, or profit, which doesn’t necessarily require a sexual interest. Also, the primary thing that distinguishes the crime from voyeurism is the presence of an imaging device to record the victim.
Again, this is a crime that requires intent. The person taking images or video must have done so with the intention of amusement, entertainment, arousal, gratification, or profit. The accused might be alleged to have recorded a person for his or her own use or for someone else’s use. Intent can also mean acting with the purpose of abusing or degrading someone.
Similarly to voyeurism, video voyeurism includes recording someone using an imaging device without permission to view one of the following:
- A person dressing, undressing, or privately exposing their body (defined as exposing a sexual organ)
- Recording under or through another person’s clothing to see the individual’s body or undergarments
It is necessary that the alleged victim have had a reasonable expectation of privacy, based on both the place where the act of video voyeurism occurred and the time when it occurred. Under Florida’s law on video voyeurism, this means a time and place when a reasonable person would think he or she could undress without concern that he or she is being watched. The statute provides the examples of a home, a bathroom, a fitting/dressing room, and a tanning booth as places where a person could reasonably expect to have privacy in disrobing.
Situations in Which Video Voyeurism Does Not Apply
Florida Statute § 810.145 spells out several instances in which recording someone without his or her express permission will not be considered video voyeurism. These situations include the following:
- Any surveillance conducted by a law enforcement agency for the lawful purpose of carrying out a law enforcement exercise;
- Any images or footage captured through a security system that is accompanied by a clear posting indicating that a security system is installed on the premises for security purposes;
- Any images or footage captured on a video surveillance device when the device has been installed in a conspicuous location; and
- The transfer, dissemination, or distribution of any surveillance or security images or footage described above by an electronic communications provider or a remote computing service provider.
If one of these situations applies in your case, video voyeurism is not an appropriate charge. Your lawyer can present evidence of these exceptions as a means of fighting the charges against you.
Penalties for Video Voyeurism
Video voyeurism is separated into four categories: video voyeurism committed by offenders under 19 years of age, video voyeurism committed by offenders over the age of 19, video voyeurism with a prior conviction, and video voyeurism against a child.
Penalties for People Under the Age of 19
For those under the age of 19, the charge will be considered a 1st-degree misdemeanor. If convicted, the judge could sentence you to any combination of the following:
- Up to 12 months of probation
- Up to 12 months in jail
- Up to $1,000 in fines
Penalties for People Over the Age of 19
For those over the age of 19, the charge becomes a 3rd-degree felony and is assigned as a Level 1 offense severity ranking under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code. If convicted, the judge could sentence you with a combination of any of the following:
- Up to 5 years of probation
- Up to 5 years in prison
- Up to $5,000 in fines
Video Voyeurism with a Prior Conviction
If you have been convicted of a crime before, particularly a previous voyeurism charge, you will be facing more severe penalties. This charge would be considered a 2nd-degree felony and is assigned a Level 4 offense severity ranking under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code. If convicted, you could face some combination of the following:
- Up to 15 years of probation
- Up to 15 years in prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
Video Voyeurism Against a Child
Crimes against children are punished seriously in the state of Florida. Video voyeurism committed against a child is a 2nd-degree felony and is assigned a Level 6 offense severity ranking. If convicted of this crime, a judge is required to designate you a sex offender and can also sentence you to a combination of one of the following:
- Up to 15 years of probation
- Up to 15 years in prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
If you are designated as a sex offender, you must register with the state and continually check in with law enforcement periodically for the rest of your life. It is a lifetime sentencing, often associated with difficulty finding residency and severe social stigma.
A video voyeurism conviction of any kind, like voyeurism, will result in a permanent criminal record and ineligibility to have your records sealed.
Defenses to Voyeurism and Video Voyeurism
A good Florida sex crimes attorney will raise one or more pretrial or trial defenses, including defenses unique to the crimes of voyeurism and video voyeurism. These might include the argument of no expectation of privacy, the grounds for the use of surveillance systems, and a lack of intent.
Your attorney might raise several defenses before or during your trial (if a trial takes place) through a motion to dismiss or a motion to suppress. A motion to dismiss seeks to completely eliminate the charges. These are rarely granted in criminal cases but typically argue one of three things:
- The undisputed facts in the case do not support the charges against you;
- The charges were filed after the statute of limitations on the case had expired; and/or
- Your right to a speedy trial has been violated through no fault of your own.
A motion to suppress seeks to eliminate certain tangible or intangible items from being admitted into evidence. They might include items seized during a search or statements you made during the police investigation. A motion to suppress will often allege that the seizure or search was carried out without a warrant or that a statement was made without a Miranda warning.
No Expectation of Privacy
People can lawfully record others in a state of undress if the people undressing have no reasonable expectation of privacy. For example, some beaches allow people to walk around topless. If another person records or takes photos of a topless beachgoer, the picture taker cannot easily be accused of video voyeurism. However, in some places, it may be illegal to distribute the recordings of the topless person without their consent.
It isn’t illegal to record someone using a security or video surveillance system if they are notified of the system by means of a conspicuous sign posted on the premises. The sign must indicate a video monitoring system has been installed. If the camera is mounted in a way that its presence is immediately noticeable, you may not even need a sign stating it is present. However, it is illegal for a merchant or store owner to directly observe or record customers without their permission in a dressing room or restroom because those are locations in which people have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Lack of Intent
Another defense to voyeurism or video voyeurism might be lack of intent. Both of these crimes require that the defendant acted with intent. In the case of voyeurism, your attorney might argue that you did not act with a lewd, lascivious, or indecent intent. You might have seen someone through a window and had no intent of watching them for indecent purposes. In the case of video voyeurism, the images or footage might have been taken with no intent of using them for amusement, entertainment, arousal, gratification, or profit. The images or video might have been passively captured outside of a security setting but without intent.
Your defense attorney will review the full facts and circumstances of your case to determine what defenses are available to you and how those defenses should be presented. Because of the penalties that are potentially on the line, you need skilled legal representation, like the representation you will find at Musca Law.
Discovery Exception to Video Voyeurism Statute of Limitations
In some cases, charges of voyeurism and video voyeurism can be defeated on statute of limitations grounds. This is touched on briefly above, as it is a likely subject for a motion to dismiss in these cases. Generally, the statute of limitations — the date by which the prosecution must file the charges against you — will depend on the level of charges filed your voyeurism or video voyeurism case. For misdemeanor charges in the first degree, the statute of limitations is typically two years. For felony charges in the third- or second-degree, the statute of limitations is typically three years.
However, the statute of limitations can often be extended in video voyeurism cases under Florida law. Florida Statute § 775.15 allows the state to file a video voyeurism case within the applicable statute of limitations period plus one year from the date when the targeted person learned of the video or one year from the date when law enforcement seized the video, whichever is earlier. This discovery exception provides the prosecution more time to file the charges and can make a statute of limitations defense more difficult to raise.
Voyeurism Combined with Stalking or Cyberstalking Charges in Florida
The crimes of voyeurism and video voyeurism can sometimes intersect the crimes of stalking and cyberstalking. A person accused of watching someone might also be accused of stalking if the instances are repetitive. A person accused of recording someone might also be accused of disseminating the video as an act of “revenge porn” or cyberstalking. The potential for these crimes to be charged together warrants a discussion on both stalking and cyberstalking.
Florida’s Definition of Stalking
Under Florida Statute § 784.048, stalking is defined as repeatedly, willfully, and maliciously harassing, following, or cyberstalking someone. Under the same law, “harassment” is defined as engaging in a “course of conduct” that targets a specific person and causes that person substantial emotional distress while serving no legitimate purpose. This means a pattern of conduct with a series of acts that demonstrate a certain purpose. It does not matter how close or far apart in time the acts occurred.
A person can also be charged with aggravated stalking under § 784.048. Stalking rises to the level of aggravated stalking when it includes a “credible threat” against the targeted person. Florida law states that a “credible threat” is one that places the targeted person in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her friends or family members. The threat can be verbal or nonverbal and must be made with the apparent ability to cause the harm threatened.
Florida’s Definition of Cyberstalking
You will notice that cyberstalking is one act that can result in stalking charges in Florida. Under Florida Statute § 784.048, “cyberstalking” is defined as a course of conduct involving electronic communication directed at a specific person that causes the person substantial emotional distress while serving no legitimate purpose. The crime also includes accessing and attempting to access a specific person’s online accounts or internet-based accounts without the person’s consent and without a legitimate purpose, leading to substantial emotional distress for the targeted person.
Section 784.048 does not define “substantial emotional distress,” which can complicate the case for both sides. It can be difficult to prove or disprove that someone felt substantial emotional distress. Case law has indicated that it is more serious than the type of upset a person experiences in his or her daily life. It is not an annoyance or uneasiness but something more.
Cyberstalking can occur through several mediums, including email, text messaging, instant messaging, and social media postings. It includes the acts of cyberbullying and revenge porn, which is a situation in which a person disseminates intimate images of another person as retaliation. Often, this occurs in soured relationships, where one person shares images of a sexual nature of his or her former partner in order to embarrass or humiliate the former partner. The images might be in the person’s possession with or without the consent of his or her former partner.
Penalties for Stalking in Florida
If a person is accused of stalking in Florida, the criminal charges will likely be a first-degree misdemeanor. This is potentially punishable by one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. Under certain conditions, explained below, the charges can be elevated to a felony, which will carry harsher punishment.
Penalties for Cyberstalking in Florida
Cyberstalking will also generally be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, also carrying the possibility for one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. In certain situations, also explained below, a person can be charged with a felony for cyberstalking.
Aggravated Stalking and Cyberstalking
A person accused of stalking or cyberstalking in Florida can be charged with a third-degree felony under the following circumstances:
- The act(s) of stalking or cyberstalking also contained a credible threat to the targeted person. This is a threat that causes the targeted person to reasonably fear for his or her safety or for the safety of his or her family or friends. The threat might be made verbally or nonverbally.
- The act(s) of stalking or cyberstalking occurred while a court order against the accused person was in place to protect the targeted person from repeat violence, dating violence, domestic violence, or sexual violence.
- The act(s) of stalking or cyberstalking occurred while a court order against the accused person was in place protecting the targeted person from any type of conduct toward the person or the person’s property.
- The act(s) of stalking or cyberstalking are alleged to have been committed against a child under the age of 16 years; or
- The accused person has a previous conviction involving the targeted person for the crime of sexual battery or indecent exposure, or for a violation of the Florida Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act, and because of such previous conviction, the accused person was ordered not to have contact with the targeted person.
In Florida, a third-degree felony can result in five years of prison time and a fine of $5,000.
Warrantless Stalking and Cyberstalking Arrests in Florida
Under subsection (6) of § 784.048, a Florida law enforcement officer can arrest someone for stalking or cyberstalking without a warrant. The officer only needs to have probable cause to believe that the person has engaged in stalking or cyberstalking in order to make the arrest. This is an important aspect of the law to note because it means that a person’s life can be turned around before a judge has reviewed a single thing. The officer can make the judgment call, and a person can be arrested without any analysis of the laws involved or the application of the laws to the circumstances of the case.
Injunctions for Protection Against Stalking and Cyberstalking
In both the case of stalking and the case of cyberstalking, the alleged victim can move a court for an order of protection by filing a Petition for Injunction for Protection Against Stalking or a Petition for Injunction for Protection Against Cyberstalking. The judge assigned to the case will review the petition and will have the discretion to issue a temporary injunction against the accused person. This can be done ex parte, meaning the accused does not have to be present or even know about the petition before a temporary injunction can be issued.
A final hearing will take place, at which you can argue against a final injunction. A final injunction might prohibit you from numerous things, including going to certain places and being within a certain distance of the petitioner, the petitioner’s car, or the petitioner’s family. If a final injunction is ordered, you might also have to give up your firearms and ammunition. A violation of this injunction can result in charges ranging from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, depending on whether there are prior convictions for violating the injunction.
Contact an Experienced Attorney Today
If you’re being accused of voyeurism, video voyeurism, stalking, or cyberstalking, make sure you talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney. Our lawyers here at Musca Law have more than 150 years of combined experience to offer your case. Serious charges of voyeurism or video voyeurism can lead to severe consequences, particularly if children are involved. Hiring an aggressive criminal defense lawyer is your best course of action if you find yourself facing these charges. The attorneys here at Musca Law have defended individuals accused of crimes throughout Florida. Our philosophy includes providing an aggressive criminal defense that uses attention to detail, exploitation of the weakness of the prosecution’s case, and focus on the strengths of your case to prove your innocence. We also provide a high level of personal service, which involves keeping you updated about the status of your case. Let us see what we can do for you.