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Criminal Defense » The Difference Between Criminal and Civil "Invasion of Privacy" in California
The laws are similar in that a person performs an act that invades the privacy of another. While the specific acts in criminal and civil cases differ – in terms of their definitions and how they are proven – they are still alike in that they intrude on a person’s private matters.
Criminal and civil invasion of privacy cases, though, are significantly different. The main difference relates to this:
Criminal invasion of privacy charges are brought by the State of California for the purpose of imposing punishment for the commission of a crime. The punishment may be in the form of fines or a prison term.
In the civil invasion of privacy cases, the act of invading the privacy of another is considered a “tort,” or, a legal wrong that damages another person. The party suffering damages can file a lawsuit in court to be financially compensated for injury done to him, his reputation, or his business.
Criminal invasion of privacy in California
Penal Code 647(j) PC is California’s criminal “invasion of privacy” law. PC 647(j) makes it a misdemeanor to violate someone’s privacy in any of three specific ways:
Examples of criminal invasion of privacy include:
Criminal invasion of privacy is a type of “disorderly conduct” in California. As such, it is a misdemeanor, punishable by:
Punishment under Penal Code 647(j) increases if:
In either of these cases, the penalty for invasion of privacy can include:
Civil invasion of privacy in California
There are two main civil invasion of privacy causes of action in California. These are:
While the elements of each case differ, parties successful in filing either claim may recover similar damages.
California “false light” claims
A person can sue for false light when an individual or business publishes offensive information about that person, implies that it’s true, but it’s actually false.
All false light claims are similar in that a party filing a lawsuit must prove three distinct elements. These are:
A few common examples of false light include:
The damages a plaintiff may recover in these actions will ordinarily depend on the specific facts of a case. But, some of the more common damages include compensation for:
California public disclosure of private fact cases
The public disclosure of private fact happens in California when a person publicly discloses private and embarrassing facts about another person. Further, the facts disclosed must not be of a legitimate public concern. This basically means that the facts are really “nobody else’s business.”
In all public disclosure of private fact cases, the plaintiff must prove five specific elements. These are:
A few common examples are:
If a plaintiff is successful in these actions, he may recover damages like those awarded in false light actions. Again, these include compensation for:
In both false light and public disclosure of private fact cases, a person typically has a one-year statute of limitation, from the date of publication or disclosure, to file a claim.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.
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