Voyeurism is a serious crime that invades the privacy of individuals and violates their sense of security. In Michigan, specific laws are in place to address voyeuristic activities and protect the rights of victims. If you find yourself facing voyeurism charges, it is essential to understand the legal implications, penalties, and potential defenses available to you. Below, George Law explains relevant statutes, MCL 750.539j(1)(b) and MCL 750.539j(1)(c), and explores the associated penalties and defenses to help you navigate the legal landscape.
What Is Voyeurism Under Michigan Law?
Voyeurism involves intentionally observing, photographing, or recording the intimate areas of an individual without their knowledge or consent. In Michigan, voyeurism is addressed under MCL 750.539j. Here’s a breakdown of the statute:
In the state of Michigan, there exists a statute known as 750.539j that addresses the invasion of someone’s privacy and the unauthorized distribution of recordings, photographs, or visual images. As a potential defendant, it is essential for you to have a comprehensive understanding of this statute. Here’s an explanation of the law:
Invasion Of Privacy
According to this statute, certain actions are strictly prohibited as they invade an individual’s privacy when they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. It is against the law to engage in the following activities:
- Surveillance: You cannot surveil or observe another person who is clad only in their undergarments, or record or photograph someone’s naked genitalia, buttocks, or female breasts when they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
- Unauthorized Visual Recording: You are not allowed to take pictures, record videos, or capture visual images of someone’s undergarments, naked genitalia, buttocks, or female breasts without their consent, especially when they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
- Distribution of Unauthorized Material: It is prohibited to distribute, disseminate, or transmit any recording, photograph, or visual image that you know or have reason to believe was obtained in violation of this statute. In simpler terms, you cannot share or send recordings or images that were obtained without permission.
Penalties For Violating The Law
If you are found guilty of violating or attempting to violate this statute, the penalties are as follows:
Invasion Of Privacy – Surveillance
- For a first offense, you can be charged with a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to 2 years, a fine of up to $2,000, or both.
- If you have previously been convicted of violating or attempting to violate subsection 1(a), the penalty increases to imprisonment for up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Invasion Of Privacy – Visual Recording Or Distribution
- Regardless of whether it is a first offense or subsequent offense, the penalty for violating or attempting to violate subsection 1(b) or (c) is imprisonment for up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Exceptions And Additional Considerations
It is important to note that this statute does not prevent you from being charged, convicted, or punished for any other crimes you may have committed while violating or attempting to violate subsections 1(a) to (c). In other words, if you engage in other unlawful activities while violating this statute, you may face additional charges and penalties.
Homeowners or residents can conduct security monitoring in their own residences without violating this statute, as long as it is not done for lewd or lascivious purposes. This means that monitoring your own property for security reasons is generally allowed unless it involves inappropriate or intrusive behavior.
Peace officers of the state or federal government, or their agents, are exempt from this statute when performing their official duties. This means that law enforcement officers can engage in surveillance, recording, or capturing images if it is part of their job responsibilities.
The term “surveil” used in this statute refers to subjecting an individual to surveillance, which involves observing, monitoring, or gathering information about a person’s activities, movements, or personal matters.
It is important to be aware of potential defenses that may apply if you are facing charges related to the surveillance and distribution of private visual images. These defenses can help protect your rights and potentially mitigate the legal consequences. Here are some defenses to consider:
Lack Of Reasonable Expectation Of Privacy
If the alleged victim did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the situation, it may be a viable defense. For example, if the person was in a public place where there is no expectation of privacy, capturing or distributing visual images may not be considered a violation of the statute.
If you can demonstrate that the individual involved explicitly consented to being surveilled, photographed, or recorded, it may serve as a defense. Consent should be freely given, informed, and voluntary. Keep in mind that consent given under duress or coercion may not be considered valid.
Lack Of Knowledge
If you can prove that you did not have knowledge or reason to know that the recording, photograph, or visual image was obtained in violation of the statute, it may be a defense. It is important to show that you had no awareness of any illegal activities related to the acquisition of the images.
Security Monitoring Or Legitimate Purpose
If the surveillance or monitoring falls under the exception mentioned in subsection (4) of the statute, where it is conducted in a residence by the owner or principal occupant for legitimate security purposes, it can serve as a defense. You must demonstrate that the monitoring was not done for lewd or lascivious purposes but solely for the safety and security of the premises.
If you can provide evidence that you were mistakenly identified as the person responsible for the surveillance or distribution of private visual images, it can be a defense. This defense requires establishing that you were not involved in the alleged activities.
Lawful Performance Of Duties
If you are a peace officer or an agent of a peace officer, and you can show that you were performing your official duties as defined by the law, it can serve as a defense. This exception applies to law enforcement officers while carrying out their authorized responsibilities.
Seek Legal Guidance From George Law
If you have been charged with voyeurism in Michigan, it is crucial to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who can provide guidance and protect your rights. George Law specializes in criminal defense cases, including voyeurism charges. With their expertise and knowledge of Michigan’s legal landscape, they can offer you personalized legal advice and advocate for your best interests. For a confidential consultation to discuss your case and explore the available legal options, reach out to George Law today by calling (248) 247-7459 or by contacting us online.