Security Camera /
Surveillance Camera Laws
You must check your state and locals laws for what is legal in your area
regardless of what is posted on this site. References here are exactly that, it
is up to You to contact your local authorities, and abide by the
rules in your area.
Hidden Camera Laws
The laws of 13 states expressly prohibit the unauthorized installation or use
of cameras in private places.
In Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine,
Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Utah, installation or
use of any device for photographing, observing or overhearing events or sounds
in a private place without permission of the people photographed or
observed is against the law.
A private place is one where a person may reasonably expect to be safe from
unauthorized surveillance. Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine,
Michagin, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Utah also prohibit trespassing on
private property to conduct surveillance of people there.
In most of these states, unauthorized installation or use of hidden cameras is
a felony, punishable by a 2000.00 fine and up to 2 years in prison.
Several states have laws prohibiting the use of hidden cameras in only certain
circumstances, such as in locker rooms or restrooms, or for the purpose of
viewing a person in a state of partial or full nudity.
The above information is intended to give you basic information of
"hidden" camera laws that are in your state. We advise you consult
your local & state laws before installing any "hidden" camera.
Some General Guidelines on video surveillance
In general, most video recordings are legal in the U.S. with or without
Laws do exist regarding "Invasion of Privacy" which deals with the
area of expected privacy. These include areas such as bathrooms, locker rooms,
changing/dressing rooms, bedrooms and other areas where a person should expect
a high level of personal privacy.
While the majority of laws dealing with video recording privacy issues tend to
allow surreptitious recording and monitoring of video activity under most
circumstances without notification of any of the parties involved, it is
highly recommended that you consult with your local or state law enforcement
or an attorney who specializes in this area to comply with all local and
regulations prior to utilization of video surveillance and monitoring.
Your private investigator is well versed in such laws and as a rule of thumb;
you should not have to worry about this when hiring a professional
investigator. Nonetheless, this may affect your case in some ways. It is
important that you realize that unlike Hollywood's version of spousal
surveillance, Private investigators will not peek into windows, hide in the
bathroom, put a micro-camera under the door, etc. They will NOT plant hidden
cameras in cars, bed rooms or other places either.
Covert video surveillance is illegal when:
- The subject has a reasonable expectation of privacy (4th Amendment rights)
i.e. in a bathroom; motel room; changing room
If audio eavesdropping is also taking place, covert surveillance may be
- The person with authority over the premises has not consented
- The reason for the video surveillance fosters an illegal purpose
Covert video surveillance should be avoided when:
- A less intrusive, legal investigative method is equally available.
- Whenever you feel uncertain about the legality or ethics of installation
Audio Recording with Surveillance
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, say that the law concerning recording of
conversations is not "settled" yet, because the technology is so
new, there is a patchwork of federal, state, and local laws governing the
manufacture, sale, transport, and use of video and audio recording devices.
The patchwork is complex because the federal laws donít pre-empt the local
ones. So your local jurisdiction could make a law more stringent than the
federal one, or the state one. Each jurisdiction is so different.
You can find The Center for Social & Legal Research website for privacy
For example in California, the Penal Code states:
"635. (a) Every person who manufactures, assembles, sells, offers for
sale, advertises for sale, possesses, transports, imports, or furnishes to
another any device which is primarily or exclusively designed or intended for
eavesdropping upon the communication of another, or any device which is
primarily or exclusively designed or intended for the unauthorized
interception or reception of communications between cellular radio telephones
or between a cellular radio telephone and a landline telephone in violation of
Section 632.5, or communications between cordless telephones or between a
cordless telephone and a landline telephone in violation of Section 632.6,
shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars
($2,500), by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or in the
state prison, or by both that fine and imprisonment. If the person has
previously been convicted of a violation of this section, the person shall be
punished by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), by
imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state
prison, or by both that fine and imprisonment."
The California code does make exceptions for those providing the devices for
federal, state, or local law enforcement officers, or public utilities.
Very often, the audio picked up by a video camera is covered by the same laws
as wiretapping and eavesdropping. Those laws vary by state.
There is a general rule, however, that applies to the kind of conversations a
business security camera or nanny-cam would pick up.
"Regardless of the state, it is
almost always illegal to record a conversation to which you are not a party,
do not have consent to tape, and could not naturally overhear."
This is pretty much the definition of "eavesdropping" and is
according to: The
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
has a very helpful summary of each Stateís eavesdropping and
Here is part of that siteís synopsis of Florida
"Fla. Stat. ch. 934.03: All parties must consent to the recording or the
disclosure of the contents of any wire, oral or electronic communication in
Florida. Recording or disclosing without the consent of all parties is a
felony, unless the interception is a first offense committed without any
illegal purpose, and not for commercial gain, or the communication is the
radio portion of a cellular conversation. Such first offenses and the
interception of cellular communications are misdemeanors. State v. News-Press
Pub. Co., 338 So. 2d 1313 (1976), State v. Tsavaris, 394 So. 2d 418
You can go there and click on your state to see the general laws applicable to
your application., you may also need to consult attorneys.
Also, to find out whether your state, has a specific law addressing hidden
go to the RCFP
"Tape Recording Laws at a Glance"
24 states do have specific hidden camera laws. Also, some states have laws REQUIRING
a notice or posting that there is surveillance equipment. Once a sign is
posted that surveillance is going on, you could say that people talking near
the sign are "consenting" to that recording.
Because Video Security Cameras are often referred to as "Spy Cams",
and "Nanny-Cams", it is obvious that they are frequently used
without the knowledge of those who are being observed, which could be illegal
because there is no consent.
There is an article in the UCLA Journal of Law and Technology, titled
"Nanny-cams and Privacy." Jessica Sann writes:
"States vary on this particular issue, but most agree that a videotaping
your nanny without her knowledge is perfectly legal so long as there is no
sound. Audio taping without the nanny's consent is an issue upon which the
states are split."
Some experts recommend telling the nanny she will be monitored, and getting
her consent in writing from the start. This protects the parents from
prosecution, and helps prevent any abuse of the child. After all, they say the
object is to prevent the child from being hurt, not to catch someone in the
act of abusing.
If you would like to some other searches for information like this on the net
you may want to try a Google search strategy:
- Audio recording + legal issues
- Audio recording + privacy rights
- Audio recording + privacy law
- Legal + privacy rights
- Security cameras + vendors
- Hidden camera + illegal
We hope this has been helpful, each of us are, in the end, responsible to
supply information regarding video and recording laws, but as was stated there
are so many grey areas that you should also consult a lawyer, as well as the
local authorities in the specific areas you intend to use the devices.
As listed above the general rule of thumb is still the simple answer:
"Regardless of the state, it is almost always
illegal to record a conversation to which you are not a party, do not have
consent to tape, and could not naturally overhear."
Nanny-Cams and our Privacy