When Does Surveillance Become Illegal?

When Does Surveillance Become Illegal?

In recent years, technology has significantly expanded the scope and capabilities of surveillance in Texas and the United States. Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras have become prevalent, especially in urban areas, enabling real-time monitoring and recording of activities. People often use these cameras to monitor high-crime locations, critical infrastructure, and public events. Law enforcement officers also employ these devices to identify and respond to potential threats quickly.

Although CCTVs are the mainstream form of surveillance, it is important to note that it is a much broader term. Surveillance can be in any form of device or program that captures video, audio, or data for observation and monitoring. This opens up various legal concerns as it has the potential to breach certain privacy laws if misused.

However, navigating the legal aspect of surveillance can easily lead to confusion. How and when does the act of surveillance become illegal in Texas?

The Legal Basis for Surveillance

It is perfectly legal to install monitoring devices on your property in the State of Texas. However, both State and Federal Laws govern the legality of this action, subject to certain stipulated conditions.

Section 16.02 of the Texas Penal Code

This law deals with the offense of “Unlawful Interception, Use, or Disclosure of Wire, Oral, or Electronic Communications.” It’s against the law to listen in on or share someone’s phone calls, conversations, or electronic messages without their permission.

Section 21.15 of the Texas Penal Code

This section addresses the offense of “Improper Photography or Visual Recording.” This law prohibits the intentional capturing of visual images or recordings of another person without their consent. Recording an individual in a place where they have reasonable expectation of privacy is illegal under this law.

The law aims to protect individuals from invasions of privacy and unauthorized recording. To record, broadcast, or transmit unconsented photograph or videos of someone is a crime under Texas Law. Furthermore, if someone records intimate areas of another person, the charge could be elevated.

Texas Government Code, Chapter 423

This law governs the use of “Unmanned Aircraft” in the state. According to this law, it is generally lawful to capture images using an unmanned aircraft in Texas, except under specific circumstances. The law allows individuals and the government to use drones for various purposes. These include leisure activities, business operations, data collection, research, and ensuring public safety.

However, there are restrictions on capturing images using drones in certain situations. The law prohibits the capture of images over private property using a drone.

Consequences of Illegal Surveillance

Illegal surveillance can lead to criminal charges, ranging from a misdemeanor to higher degree felonies in Texas. The law mandates that you may receive orders to pay hefty fines or face jail time.

Section 16.02 of the Texas Penal Code Penalties

  • Unlawful interception, use, or disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications without the consent of at least one party involved is classified as a Class A misdemeanor. Conviction may result in a fine of up to $4,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year.
  • If the individual commits the offense with the intent to commit a felony against another person or with the intent to use, disclose, or distribute the intercepted information to harm or defraud someone, it becomes a third-degree felony. If you are convicted of a third degree felony, it could lead to imprisonment for two to ten years. The court could also order you to pay a fine of up to $10,000.

Section 21.15 of the Texas Penal Code Penalties

  • Taking pictures or videos of someone without their permission when they expect to be private is a state jail felony. A state jail felony is punishable by confinement ranging from 180 days to two years in jail. You can also pay a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Taking pictures or videos of someone without their consent to sexually arouse or gratify sexual desire is a third-degree felony. A 3rd degree felony charge may result in two to ten years in prison. The court can also order you to pay a fine of up to $10,000.

The severity of the penalty depends on the specific circumstances of the offense and any prior criminal history of the offender.

Texas Government Code, Chapter 423

Chapter 423 does not discuss penalties. However, breaking the aforementioned rules in this chapter may result in legal consequences. The severity of the violation will determine the extent of these consequences.

Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!

If you’re in trouble for charges of illegal surveillance, it is really important to get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer. They can give you important advice, guide you through the legal stuff, and represent you in court.

As an experienced criminal defense lawyer, I can look at all the facts of your case and investigate your charges. Then, I’ll strategize a strong defense plan specifically for your case. I can talk to the other side for you and stand up for your rights in court.

I will clarify the consequences of your conviction if you face charges for DUI. These consequences may include imprisonment, monetary penalties, or other forms of punishment. I’ll try to make sure the charges do not make a lasting impact on your life and future.

The whole criminal justice system can be really complex and scary. But having an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side can make a big difference. They can explain things to you, help you understand your options, and support you all throughout the legal process. They will review evidence, gather witness statements, and search for anything that could improve your situation.