Assembly, Senate, Governor Reach Agreement on Video Voyeurism Law

Measure addresses invasions of privacy in high-tech age
June 12, 2003

Assemblyman Philip Ramos (D-Central Islip) announced today that the state Assembly and Senate, along with the governor, have reached an agreement on a “video voyeurism” law meant to prevent high-tech peeping toms from being able to exploit unwitting victims.

“Victims like Stephanie Fuller, a Bay Shore resident, can finally rest easy knowing that tougher penalties are in place to deal with crimes like these,” Ramos said. “Law enforcement will now have the tools and the ability to deal with sophisticated perverts.”

Stephanie Fuller, who fought hard for passage of the bill, was unknowingly being filmed in bed in her apartment by her landlord. He pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal trespassing and served no time in jail for the misdemeanor.

Twelve states have embraced similar laws. Ramos’ legislation would make photographic or video voyeurism by the photographer a felony punishable by up to four years imprisonment; and up to seven years imprisonment for a second offense. These offenders would be required to register as sex offenders under Megan’s Law. The bill would also make any other transfer of an image known to have been obtained unlawfully punishable by up to a one year sentence, and up to four years for a second conviction. A four year penalty would also apply to anyone convicted of the sale or publication of such images.

The Assembly has previously passed similar legislation, but because of weaknesses in versions supported by the Senate and governor, it hasn’t become law. Those concerns have been addressed by the Assembly, and the legislation is expected to be passed by both houses and signed into law.

“A person has a very reasonable right to expect that they won’t be photographed, videotaped or recorded when they’re in their most private, vulnerable moments,” Ramos said. “Our legislation says such an assault on a person’s privacy and dignity won’t go unpunished.”

Unlawful video surveillance is prohibited in places like bathrooms and dressing rooms, but current law doesn’t apply to private residences. Legitimate photographs and videotapes involving home security systems or authorized law enforcement surveillance are exempt from this legislation.

“With the growth of the Internet, the victims of this kind of video voyeurism can be violated over and over again,” Ramos said. “Our laws need to keep up with our technology, and today we’ve taken a big step toward ensuring they do.”