An experienced attorney can fight for justice if your privacy has been violated.
One of the most fundamental rights under Texas and federal law is the right to privacy. A violation of privacy is an attack on your dignity, and the consequences can be severe: fear, anxiety, distress, and even physical symptoms.
Unfortunately, hidden cameras are becoming far more commonly available, and while they have some legitimate uses, it is never acceptable to record someone in a private place like a bedroom or bathroom. If you have been recorded in a private place without your knowledge, you have recourse under Texas law, but you must fight for your rights. Our law firm can help.
Where is it illegal to put a hidden camera?
A hidden camera is a recording device designed to capture video (and often audio) without the knowledge of the person or people being recorded. Property owners can legally use hidden cameras in some circumstances, such as “nanny cams” to keep an eye on caregivers for children. However, it is illegal to put a hidden camera in any location where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a bathroom or bedroom.
Recent news stories are rife with reports of individuals violating the law and secretly recording others in private places. Hidden cameras have been discovered in:
- Hotel and motel rooms
- Airbnb rentals
- Public restrooms
- Locker rooms
- Changing rooms
- Massage parlors
- Guest rooms and bathrooms in private residences
Again, in any location where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, it’s generally illegal to place a hidden camera. This includes private residences and businesses, but it also includes public places where there is an expectation of privacy, such as public bathrooms.
How to spot hidden cameras
Hidden cameras are typically placed in seemingly innocuous places, such as:
- Inside a smoke detector
- Inside a wall clock or alarm clock
- Within electrical outlets
- Inside pieces of décor such as plants and picture frames
- Inside books
- Behind mirrors
Because they are designed to hide in plain sight, hidden cameras are obviously difficult to find. However, there are a few methods that can work reasonably well. First, keep an eye out for items that look out of place or appear non-functional (such as a smoke detector that isn’t working as a smoke detector). You can also turn off all the lights in a room and use a flashlight to look for reflective services; even small camera lenses reflect light. And there are hidden camera detector apps for your smartphone that can look for devices that are transmitting data.
What to do if you spot a hidden camera
There are a few steps you should immediately take if you see a hidden camera. First, take pictures: both a close-up shot of the camera itself, and a longer shot that shows the location where it was placed. If you can safely do so, remove the camera or cover it up. Then, contact the owner or manager of the property. You should also speak with an attorney about filing a potential legal claim.
Laws pertaining to hidden cameras in Texas
In Texas, it’s generally legal to set up cameras in public places where there is no expectation of privacy. It’s also generally legal for homeowners to set up hidden cameras in the home. However, it’s illegal to record individuals in any location where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy without their consent, even in your own home.
Improper photography or visual recording – that is, taking pictures or videos of someone without their permission in an area where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy – is against the law in Texas. Taking video of a person’s intimate areas without consent is the crime of invasive visual recording, which is a felony. In addition, victims of these crimes have recourse through the civil justice system.
Legal options for victims of hidden cameras
If your privacy was invaded using a hidden camera, you may be able to pursue damages (financial compensation) through a civil lawsuit. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to sue for invasion of privacy or negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress. In addition to the party who actually placed the cameras, you may have a claim against the owner of the premises if they failed to take adequate measures to prevent the camera from being placed or to detect and remove it promptly. If the hidden camera footage was later shared with others or disseminated on the internet, you may have a civil claim for damages from those post-recording activities as well.
While taking video without permission is a crime, your civil lawsuit is distinct from any criminal charges brought by the State of Texas against the person who placed the hidden camera. You may be able to win your case even if the charges are dropped or the person is acquitted in criminal court.
However, you need to act quickly. Hidden camera lawsuits are difficult cases that require extensive investigation, and the relevant evidence can be lost or destroyed quickly. The sooner you get reliable legal advice, the better. If you believe you were recorded by a hidden camera without your consent, reach out to Weinstein Law today for a free, confidential consultation.