Home and business owners can protect their property with security systems in Florida, which include hidden cameras, alarm systems and even the use of security guards. While they are within their rights to protect themselves, property owners must be aware of state privacy law requirements to avoid committing a crime. Video recordings cannot infringe on another person's rights if they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Florida Law on Hidden Video Cameras
According to Florida Statute Section 810.145, video voyeurism is illegal, which means it is against the law to record an individual without their knowledge in a place where they should have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The state's video voyeurism laws are in place to stop people from illegally taping others without their knowledge, particularly when they are in compromising situations.
A person committing the crime of video voyeurism must intend to derive amusement, entertainment, gratification, sexual arousal or profit by using the imagery to harass or degrade someone else. For example, "up-skirting," or the hidden filming of an individual's private parts without their knowledge or consent, falls under this law. When used properly, video cameras on a person's private property do not violate these laws.
While home security cameras are legal in Florida, their placement can sometimes land a homeowner in hot water. Surveillance cameras should record the homeowner's property only, not portions of a neighbor's home or yard. Some homeowner's associations or neighborhoods may have additional rules on security cameras, so homeowners should check with their location's governing body before installation.
Penalties for Video Voyeurism in Florida
A person who commits the crime of video voyeurism in Florida can face various charges and penalties, depending on the crime's severity and the perpetrator's age. A person under 19 convicted of video voyeurism commits a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a punishment of one year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.
A person over 19 convicted of video voyeurism faces a third-degree felony charge, which carries a five-year prison sentence and a maximum fine of $5,000. A subsequent offense is a second-degree felony, which carries up to 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Video Voyeurism Against a Child and Penalties
A person charged with video voyeurism against a child faces a mandatory sex offender designation and increased penalties if:
- The offender was 24 or older, and the minor was 16 or under.
- The minor was 16 or under, and the offender was 18 or older and responsible for their welfare.
- The minor was a student 16 or under, and the offender was 18 or older and employed at the same school.
This charge is a second-degree felony which carries up to 15 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. A person convicted of this charge may also receive sex offender probation for several months.
Hidden Cameras in Florida Businesses
There are no established federal or state laws on workplace hidden cameras. Businesses can legally install them, and while owners will usually notify their employees they are in place, they do not have to do so by law. The National Labor Relations Board has guidelines for businesses that employ union workers and have video surveillance systems on the premises, allowing them to negotiate with their unions to establish rules about the company's use of hidden cameras.
Audio recording is another matter in the workplace. An employer cannot record an employee without their permission, nor can an employee record their employer without consent, as Florida requires consent from everyone involved.
Communications and Consent Laws in Florida
Hidden cameras and video surveillance are not the only recording devices that require consent – audio recording devices do, as well. A person cannot intercept oral communication without another's consent if they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. All parties that communicate confidentially must consent to record the conversations.
However, consent is not required when there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in that communication. For example, a speech made by a city official in public does not dictate a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Recording Devices in Courtrooms
State courts in Florida typically allow recording devices in the the courtroom, both at the trial and appellate levels. However, a judge may forbid recording in the courtroom if they decide that such devices will adversely affect the proceedings. Florida federal courts do not usually allow recording devices of any kind in court. Public meetings in Florida also allow the use of recording devices as long as there is no disruption as a result.
Electronic Communication and Surveillance Laws
Eavesdropping is listening in, recording and transmitting the private conversations of others without their permission, and wiretapping is a form of electronic eavesdropping used to intercept, monitor and record people with a concealed device. According to Florida law, a person who records or intercepts a conversation on the phone without the consent of all parties is committing a crime.
The U.S. Department of Justice defines electronic communication as "any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature," which includes emails and text messages. The law covers these written communications if there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, but not if they were made in public or over social media where other people can see them. Illegal wiretapping, or eavesdropping, also carries severe penalties. An offender faces third-degree felony charges punishable by a maximum of five years in state prison.
- Florida Code: Section 810.145 Video Voyeurism
- North Shore Criminal Law: "Up-skirting" or Filming a Person’s Private Parts Without Their Knowledge or Consent
- Brick House Security: What's Legal and What's Not When Placing Hidden Cameras in Your Home, Your Office or in Public Places?
- Digital Media Law Project: Florida Recording Law
- Samis Law Firm: Intercepts of Communication (Wiretap)
- US Department of Justice: 1045 Definition —Electronic Communication
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.