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Are cameras in bathrooms illegal in California?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Feb 20, 2019 | 0 Comments

public restroom
Penal Code 647(j) is California’s invasion of privacy law, which makes it a crime for a person to view the inside of a bathroom via a camera.

It is a crime in California for a person to view the inside of a bathroom via a camera.

California Penal Code 647(j) PC is California's criminal “invasion of privacy” law. This law states that it is illegal for a person to view the inside of a room or area in which a person has a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in.

According to PC 647(j), a person has a reasonable expectation in the following:

  • bathrooms,
  • bedrooms,
  • changing rooms,
  • fitting rooms,
  • dressing rooms, and
  • tanning booths.

California's invasion of privacy law is one of the State's two “Peeping Tom” laws. The other is California Penal Code 647(i) PC. This law makes it a crime for a person to:

  1. peek in the door or window of an inhabited structure,
  2. while loitering (or, lingering) on private property.

Violations of either of California's Peeping Tom laws are charged as misdemeanors. The crimes are punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

What is California Penal Code 647(j) PC?

Penal Code 647(j) is California's invasion of privacy law, which makes it a crime for a person to view the inside of a bathroom via a camera.

More specifically, under this code section, it is a crime for a person to invade the privacy of another, by:

  1. viewing a victim via a “certain device”, and
  2. viewing a victim in a room or an area in which he/she has a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in.

Viewing “devices” that may be used to violate PC 647(j) include:

  • cameras,
  • binoculars,
  • telescopes,
  • periscopes, and
  • mobile phones.

Further, according to this statute, the following rooms or areas are ones in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in:

  • bathrooms,
  • bedrooms,
  • changing rooms,
  • fitting rooms,
  • dressing rooms, and
  • tanning booths.

What is California Penal Code 647(i) PC?

PC 647(j) is one (of two) of California's “Peeping Tom” laws. The other is Penal Code 647(i).

PC 647(i) makes it a California crime for a person to “peek while loitering.” An accused is guilty of this if:

  1. he delays, lingers or wanders on someone else' private property;
  2. without a lawful purpose for being there; and,
  3. he peeks in the door or window of an inhabited building or structure on the property.

A building or structure is inhabited if someone uses it as a dwelling

What are the penalties for PC 647(j) and PC 647(i) violations?

A violation of either of these penal code sections is a form of “disorderly conduct” under California law. As such, either violation will be charged as a misdemeanor that is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

Please note that in lieu of jail time a judge may order a defendant to misdemeanor probation. This is also called “summary” or “informal” probation.

With regards to violations of Penal Code 647(j), penalties may increase when:

  • it is the defendant's second or subsequent PC 647(j) offense, or
  • the victim is under the age of 18.

Under either of these circumstances, invasion of privacy can be punished in California by:

  • up to one year in county jail; and/or,
  • a fine of up to $2,000.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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