The Show Me state does not allow you to show just anything in the realm of video surveillance. Missouri law explicitly regulates and limits the locations and circumstances of video recording. Further, some instances of video surveillance may also be punishable under its wiretapping statutes when they involve the interception of oral communication.
Consent and Privacy
In public places such as shops, streets, and government buildings, video surveillance is widespread and completely legal. On the other hand, in locations where an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy, has not consented to recording, and is in a state of partial or full nudity, video surveillance is considered to be an invasion of privacy and punishable as a Class A misdemeanor (Mo. Rev. Stat. §565.253, sec 1). Also, if a concealed camera secretly videotapes "another person under or through the clothing worn by that other person for the purpose of viewing the body of or the undergarments worn by that other person," the act is punishable even if the surveillance has been conducted in a public place. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §565.253, sec 2).
If more than one person is put under video surveillance in the methods described in Statute §565.253, the crime will be prosecuted as a Class D Felony. If the perpetrator has already been convicted of the crime as a Class A misdemeanor, a second offense also will be prosecuted as a Class D Felony. And if the offender already has been convicted of the crime as a Class D Felony, a second offense will be prosecuted as a Class C Felony.
Wiretapping statutes in Missouri generally are used to prosecute interception of wire or oral communications such as the usage of an unauthorized phone tap (Mo. Rev. Stat. §542.402, sec 1). However, if the camcorder used for video surveillance records an audio track, it may be construed as an illegal wiretap depending on how closely its subjects are monitored and if their speech is audible. If the audio part of the recording appears intended for the use of a criminal or tortuous act, the perpetrator will likely be prosecuted for wiretapping (Mo. Rev. Stat. §542.402, sec 2).
Exceptions to the Law
Covert surveillance is legal when conducted by law enforcement agents for the purpose of acquiring evidence in undercover investigations or "protection of law enforcement officers and others working under their direction in such investigations" (Mo. Rev. Stat. §542.402, sec 1).
Noel Lawrence has written on cultural affairs and cinema for Release Print and OtherZine since 2000. He holds a graduate degree in Russian literature from Stanford University and currently lives in Los Angeles.