PEERING, PEEPING, SPYING
Peering, peeping and spying can all carry harsh punishments depending on the circumstances involved.
What is the legal definition of Peeping, Peering and Spying?
Peeping, peering and spying are defined in NRS 200.603.
NRS 200.603 – Peering, peeping or spying through window, door or other opening of dwelling of another; penalties.
- A person shall not knowingly enter upon the property or premises of another or upon the property or premises owned by him or her and leased or rented to another with the intent to surreptitiously conceal himself or herself on the property or premises and peer, peep or spy through a window, door or other opening of a building or structure that is used as a dwelling on the property or premises.
- A person who violates subsection 1 is guilty of:
- If the person is in possession of a deadly weapon at the time of the violation, a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 6 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $5,000.
- If the person is not in possession of a deadly weapon at the time of the violation, but is in possession of a photographic or digital camera, video camera or other device capable of recording images or sound at the time of the violation, a misdemeanor.
- This section does not apply to:
- A law enforcement officer conducting a criminal investigation or surveillance;
- A building inspector, building official or other similar authority employed by a governmental body while performing his or her duties; or
- An employee of a public utility while performing his or her duties.
This is basically a law referring to “Peeping Tom’s”, right?
Basically, yes. NRS 200.603 outlaws spying on someone. However, there are aspects of this law that make it vague.
In order to be considered “peeping, peering, and spying,” you must first intentionally enter the property or premises of another. This can be as simple as walking on to someone’s front lawn to get a better view into their home, or as much as actually getting into the person’s home so you can hide somewhere to see them. Generally speaking, prosecutors will attempt to charge you with violation of “peeping Tom” laws if you are spying through someone’s window or door, even if you are not on their property, so long as the view is not something that can easily be seen from a public area. In other words, climbing into a tree and using binoculars in order to see through the window may, in fact, be a violation of NRS 200.603. This is because the law is vague about what it means to “enter upon the property…of another.” The prosecutor will argue that the use of binoculars, or some other technology that allows you to see something far away, is a means of allowing your sight to “enter the property of another.” This is why it is important to hire an experienced lawyer if you’ve been charged with “Peeping, Peering, or Spying.”
What are the possible penalties?
If you have been charged with “Peeping, Peering, or Spying,” then the possible penalties will be determined by what you have in your possession at the time.
If you have a deadly weapon at the time of the offense, then you will be charged with a category B felony, which carries possible penalties of:
- Between 1 and 6 years in a Nevada State Prison; and
- Possible fines up to $5,000.
If you do not have a deadly weapon at the time of the offense, but you have any device capable of recording images or video, then you will be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries possible penalties of:
- Up to 6 months in jail; and/or
- Possible fines up to $1,000.
Please Note: Although the statute requires that you have a device capable of recording images or videos, in practice the act of entering onto another’s property for the purpose of peeping, peering or spying on someone will be charged as a misdemeanor regardless of whether you have such a device. Moreover, as cellular telephones become more prominent, this requirement becomes almost unnecessary as many people have cellular phones with them at all times, and cameras come standard on almost all cellular phones.
Are there any Defenses?
Yes, of course there are. Some of the possible defenses include:
- Public View/No Entrance on to Property – Peeping, Peering, and Spying requires that your view of the victim was not something that could easily be seen from a public area. In other words, if the victim was changing in their living room with the window open, in full view of anyone who happened to be walking by on the street or sidewalk, then there was no peeping, peering or spying. If your attorney can show that you were viewing the victim from a public area, and that you were not going to any extra lengths to do so (climbing a tree, using binoculars, etc.), then the charges against you should be dropped or dismissed.
- Legal Access/Right to Enter – Subsection 3 of NRS 200.603 lists three occasions where someone can enter the property of another, and therefore where “Peeping, Peering, Spying” does not apply. The charges against you should be dropped or dismissed if you were acting in your legal capacity as: a law enforcement officer conducting a criminal investigation or surveillance; a building inspector, building official, or other similar authority employed by a governmental body; or an employee of a public utility.
Please Note: For all the exceptions under “Legal Access/Right to Enter”, the exception only applies if you were actually acting within the scope of your duties at the time of the alleged violation. In other words, simply working as a law enforcement officer, building inspector, or for a public utility is not enough. If you were not entering the property to conduct business in that capacity, then the exception will not apply.
- Lack of Evidence – As with any crime, the prosecution bears the burden of proving every element of the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If there is not enough evidence to uphold this high level of proof, then the charges should be dropped or dismissed.
What should I do if I’ve been charged with Peeping, Peering, or Syping?
As with any crime, it is very important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so that you can discuss the specific circumstances as well as any defenses that may apply to your case.