Voyeurism, the act of observing or recording another person without that person’s consent for a sexual purpose, is a serious felony under Washington law. A conviction can lead to a large fine and a prison sentence, but prosecutors have a very specific set of facts and circumstances that they must prove in order to obtain a conviction. Allegations of voyeurism could result from mistakes, misunderstandings, or even false accusations. An experienced sex crimes defense attorney with knowledge of Washington’s criminal court system can help you understand the charges against you, identify claims and defenses that you may raise, and protect your rights.

Definition of Voyeurism

Washington law has a very specific definition of the crime of voyeurism. Sexual gratification or arousal is the central component of any allegation of voyeurism. The statute defining the offense requires a defendant to knowingly watch or record, via photography or video, a person without their knowledge or consent, when that person is in a place with a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” This means a place where the person believes they are safe from surveillance or other observation, or specifically where they believe they can undress without being watched.

Voyeurism’s legal definition covers two types of situations. The first occurs when a person is somewhere they reasonably believe to be private, regardless of whether the person disrobes or engages in any specific conduct. The second situation occurs when a person views another person’s “intimate areas,” defined as areas normally covered by clothing, either in public or private.

“Knowledge” and “Intent” Required

The statute defining voyeurism requires that the defendant know, first, that they are viewing or recording another person, and second, that they do not have that person’s consent to do so or that the person is unaware of the defendant’s actions. This means that the defendant must be consciously aware of what they are doing and that they do not have permission to do so.

A defendant’s intent behind the observation or surveillance must be sexual gratification or arousal. It does not need to be the defendant’s own gratification or arousal, but the act must have a sexual aspect to it for the statute to apply.

Defenses to Voyeurism Prosecutions

In a prosecution for alleged voyeurism, a prosecutor must prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This includes (1) the facts and circumstances of the alleged surveillance, (2) the defendant’s knowledge of the nature of the act, (3) the other person’s lack of knowledge or consent, and (4) the sexual purpose behind the defendant’s alleged actions.

While photographing or filming a person without their knowledge, without any sexual intent, may have its own legal complications, it may not rise to the level of criminal voyeurism. For example, a video camera intended for security surveillance may capture a person in a private moment, but without sexual intent. A defendant may challenge the evidence of the defendant’s knowledge, either of the allegedly criminal nature of the act or of the person’s lack of knowledge or consent.

If you have been charged with alleged voyeurism, an experienced Seattle, Kirkland wor Washington voyeurism lawyer can help. We have protected the rights of defendants in sex offense cases throughout Washington and obtained acquittals and dismissals for our clients. Contact us today for your confidential case evaluation, or call (888) 212-4824