Videotaping and Protection Orders
It is becoming increasingly common for people to use their cell phone video cameras to record events in their lives, and for homes and businesses to be equipped with video surveillance equipment. Like other states, Washington has privacy laws regarding the videotaping of others, and the rules vary depending on whether audio of private communications has been recorded, or whether the videotape consists simply of images. Violations of Washington laws related to videotaping private conversations or acts may be penalized with a criminal charge or civil suit. If you are concerned about videotaping and protection orders, you should consult an experienced Seattle civil protection order attorney. At Blair & Kim, our experienced criminal defense and family law team may be able to represent you whether you hope to obtain a protection order or seek to defend against one.Videotaping and Protection Orders
In Washington, whether or not it was proper to videotape generally depends on the reason for videotaping. When a business has video surveillance on its own property in places where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy and the purpose of the videotaping is not to harass others, they may not face any penalties. Usually a business using video surveillance does not record conversations, only images.
In some cases, a victim of violence may try to use videotape to obtain evidence of what has happened. Generally, a person can't record a private conversation, even with a family member, without the other person's knowledge. However, there are exceptions. For example, a spouse can record conversations, including on videotape, where threats of bodily harm and other unlawful requests or demands are being made, or if there are repeated communications or communications happening at an extremely inconvenient hour.
When there are security cameras in a home and they capture video footage of misconduct, the footage may be used as evidence, but it is important for anyone hoping to use such footage to consult an experienced lawyer about the specifics of the situation. There are some videos taken with audio that may not be used as evidence or that may constitute grounds for a civil or criminal action. When videotaping is done to invade someone else's reasonable expectation of privacy, such as taping a person in a bedroom or on the toilet, the person who took the video may face a civil suit for invasion or privacy. The person whose privacy was invaded may also request a protection order against the person who recorded them.Seeking a Protection Order
A protection order may be sought against videotaping that constitutes harassment or stalking. Where certain family or household relationships exist between the person doing the videotaping and the person being videotaped, and the videotaping is accompanied by other violent actions, it may be possible to obtain a domestic violence protection order.
Unlawful harassment that may be grounds for obtaining a protection order includes any knowing and willful course of conduct directed to a person that (1) harasses, alarms or annoys the person, (2) does not serve a lawful or legitimate purpose, (3) would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and (4) actually does cause the victim to experience substantial emotional distress. Usually a “course of conduct” is a series of acts that happen over a period of time. For example, if your ex-boyfriend follows you around every day with a video camera, shooting footage, with the purpose of distressing you, this may be a course of conduct that is grounds for obtaining a protection order.
When determining whether the course of conduct a victim believes is harassing is legitimate, the court will consider whether the harasser has contacted the victim, whether he's been told no further contact is welcome, whether the behavior is harassing, whether the actions interfere with privacy or create an intimidating environment, and whether the contact was previously subject to a court order. So, using the ex-boyfriend example above, the court would look at, among other things, whether the victim had told the ex-boyfriend that he wasn't welcome to do that, and whether the taping was occurring in private places. A knowledgeable lawyer can evaluate your situation and assist you in determining whether to seek a protection order.
An anti-harassment order, if obtained, can stop the respondent from contacting the victim, stop the respondent from conducting surveillance on the victim, and mandate that the respondent stay a certain distance away from the victim or her home or her workplace.
If the videotaping has a threatening or dangerous component, the victim can ask for a temporary anti-harassment order. This can be obtained ex parte, and may be granted if the victim can show reasonable proof of the illegitimate harassment and that irreparable harm would be the consequence of not granting the order. Meanwhile, the harasser or person who is videotaping will have an opportunity to be heard at a full hearing. He must be served with the anti-harassment order papers. The hearing is set for two weeks away.Experienced Criminal Defense and Family Law Attorneys Serving Seattle
If you are concerned with videotaping and protection orders in Seattle, you should retain skillful and experienced legal counsel that understands the potential consequences of this type of conduct. We have both a family law and a criminal defense lawyer who work together to develop a strong strategy for our clients' cases. We represent people in locations including Redmond, Bellevue, Kirkland, and throughout King County. Call us at (206) 622-6562 or contact us via our online form.