California Laws against “Peeping Toms” – California Penal Code PC 647(i) and PC 647(j)

Posted by Raoul Severo | Sep 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

You have probably heard of the term “Peeping Tom”. Peeping Tom is a common title related to creeps committing the act of voyeurism. A voyeur is a person who gets sexual pleasure from secretly watching other people naked or engaged in sexual deeds. In the state of California, acts like these are considered criminal offenses. That is why there are a couple of statutes implemented in the California Penal Code to stop people from committing such exploits. The California Peeping Tom Laws. Violating these can lead to a possible misdemeanor case. 

There are two components under California's Peeping Tom Laws; PC 647(i) and PC 647(j); (i) discuss “peeking and loitering” while (j) tackles the illegal act of “invasion of privacy”.

PC 647 (i)

The law on peeking while loitering is commonly violated when the accused is prowling and wandering around the property of another individual, and he/she got caught taking a look inside the property without a.) an explicit or lawful business with the owner or occupant or b.) with the intent of performing an act of voyeurism.

PC 647 (j)

The crime of invading other people's privacy is committed when the accused commits sexual gratification, and his/her actions fall under these conditions: 

  1. The accused looked through any form of opening in the property through any means using any instrumentalities to view the insides of an area in which the occupant has a right to privacy. Some of these instruments are periscopes, telescopes, binoculars, cameras, camcorders, mobile phones, and drones. 
  2. The accused used a concealed electronic device to take pictures or record videos of another person in a state of partial or full nudity in an area in which the occupant has a right to privacy without any form of consent.

The accused cannot use the following reasons as a form of excuse or defenses:

  1. He/She was a cohabitant of the victim.
  2. The victim was not in a state of full or partial undress.

Punishments for Violating PC 647(i) and PC 647(j)

Violators proven guilty are charged with a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is a crime that usually comes with a sentence that lasts 365 days or less in county jail; it is more severe than an infraction but less severe than a felony. The punishment includes:

  1. jail time of 6 (six) months up to a year, and/or,
  2. a fine of up to $1,000 (one thousand dollars) or more.

Violators of California's “Peeping Tom” Laws are not automatically registered as Sex Offenders. 

However, if the victim happens to be a minor when the offense was committed, the punishment includes:   

  1. being registered as a sex offender and
  2. jail time of 1 (one) up to 2 (two) years, and/or,
  3. a fine of up to $2,000 (two thousand dollars) or more.

Other Related Offenses

Under the California Penal Code, other disorderly conduct violations are related to the laws against Peeping Toms. Some of these are:

  1. Lewd Public Conduct – PC 647 (a)
  2. Unlawful Lodging – PC 647 (e)
  3. Criminal Loitering – PC 647 (h)

Legal Defenses

Even if convicted “Peeping Toms” are not required to register as Sex Offenders in the state of California, this can still show up in their records. If a background check is to be performed on them for social, civil, or employment reasons, it would direly affect their credibility on the grounds of perverted behavior. That is why it would be of utmost importance to hire the assistance of a competent lawyer to defend your case. A good lawyer might include some of these conditions for the defendant:

On PC 647 (i):

  • The defendant was not inside the property;
  • The defendant had no intent of loitering;
  • The defendant had a clear lawful purpose on why he/she is in the property; and
  • The property in question was legally uninhabited.

On PC 647 (j)

  • The area in question is not under the scopes of right to privacy;
  • Consent was given;
  • There was no intent to invade other people's privacy; and
  • There was no intent to arouse or sexually gratify him- or herself.

If you or anyone you know ever had the misfortune of being charged with violating California's Laws against “Peeping Toms”, it would be of your best interest to seek professional help from our roster of licensed and experienced criminal defense lawyers.


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