A 34-year-old man from East Bay (Benicia) has recently been arrested for having placed hidden cameras in the bathroom of a Walnut Creek Starbucks. His intent was allegedly to record strangers while they used the facilities. Starbucks employees managed to find these cameras on at least 2 separate occasions within the last 2 months.
In cases such as the one above, law enforcement officials must determine which of the vast number of California laws an individual has violated. Most of these stem from the 1967 ‘Invasion of Privacy Act’ which deals with protecting the citizenry’s privacy in a number of ways. 2 such laws fall under the umbrella of preventing “Peeping Toms:” CA Penal Code 647(i), which deals with unlawful peeping and CA PC 647(j), invasion of privacy. While CA PC 647(i) requires that an individual is already in the midst of loitering on a particular property CA PC 647(j) is the portion of the law that deals with recordings of other persons for a) the purposes of sexual gratification or b) for the purposes of ‘peeking’ or secretly looking at another person or persons for the purposes of viewing their underwear or naked body. Both crimes are considered ‘disorderly conduct’ by law and are, thus, usually treated as misdemeanors.
If an individual is arrested for video taping or photographing others secretively, in other words, invading another person’s privacy in some way, then they may be subject to a $1,000 fine and 6 months in county. However, if there has been more than one violation of a privacy law (either part i or part j of CA PC 647), then penalties rise to a $2,000 fine and 1 year in county jail.