What is Voyeurism in Texas?

In the digital age, where cameras are everywhere and privacy is hard to come by, the concept of voyeurism takes on new dimensions. Voyeurism is a serious offense in Texas, as in many other states, with potentially severe consequences. Understanding its legal definition, the elements required for a conviction, potential defenses, and the implications for those accused is crucial for both the public and legal professionals.

Whether you’re seeking clarity on the law or are simply curious about this aspect of Texas criminal justice, this article aims to provide comprehensive insights into the world of voyeurism within the Lone Star State.

Voyeurism in Texas: A Closer Look

Voyeurism in Texas, as per the Texas Penal Code, Section 21.17, refers to the act of watching, recording, or taking pictures of someone without their permission and with the intent to arouse or gratify sexual desire. This occurs when the person being observed is in a dwelling or structure and believes they are in a private location. This can include situations such as bathrooms, changing rooms, bedrooms, or other private spaces.

Key Elements of Texas Voyeurism Laws

Watching, Recording, or Taking Pictures:

    • Voyeurism involves the act of watching, recording, or taking pictures of a person without the other person’s permission.

Without Consent:

    • The actions must occur without the consent of the person being observed.

Private Location:

    • The person being observed must have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and the observation typically occurs in a private location.

Intent to Arouse or Gratify Sexual Desire:

    • The act of voyeurism is committed with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of the actor toward the person observed.

Specific Locations:

    • The law often specifies certain private locations where voyeuristic actions are prohibited. Specifically, this can include places like bathrooms, changing rooms, bedrooms, or other private spaces.

How is Voyeurism Different from Peeping Tom?

Since 2015, Texas has had laws addressing Peeping Tom behavior, which was previously only punishable as disorderly conduct. It was initially designated as Texas Penal Code Section 21.16. The state introduced voyeurism as a specific crime. If there’s evidence that someone is spying on others for sexual reasons, prosecutors can now bring voyeurism charges.

Although the term “Peeping Tom” isn’t specifically mentioned in Texas laws, actions linked to Peeping Tom behavior—like secretly watching or spying on people in private places—may fall under different sections of the Texas Penal Code dealing with invasion of privacy, improper visual recording, or similar offenses.

Consequences for Voyeurism in Texas

Today, if someone suspected of being a voyeur is found guilty, they could face more serious consequences. The penalties now depend on the situation and whether the suspect has been in trouble for this before.

  • For a first offense, or if the victim is over 14, it’s a Class C Misdemeanor, and the fine can be up to $500.

However, if the victim is a child younger than 14 years old or the suspect has been convicted of voyeurism two or more times:

  • For a second or subsequent offense, it becomes a Class B Misdemeanor, leading to up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000.
  • If the victim is a minor under 14, it becomes a State Jail Felony, resulting in confinement in a state jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Preventing Voyeurism Charges: Tips for Texas Residents

  1. Be Aware of Your Surroundings and Data Collected: Pay attention to what’s happening around you, and if something seems odd, tell the authorities right away. This goes for both in-person situations and online, where your data is collected.
  2. Secure Your Property and Opt Out of the Sale of Personal Information: Protect your privacy by securing your property. Additionally, consider investing in measures that discourage potential voyeurs. Most importantly, be proactive by choosing not to sell your personal information.

Know Your Rights and Data Privacy Laws: Learn about your rights and the laws about privacy in Texas and across the United States.