Imagine that you’re looking out your window and paying attention to what’s happening in the neighborhood. Then, you see something that captures your attention in your neighbor’s window. Should you investigate it? Is it legal to peer through their windows? It’s normal to ask yourself those questions.
The whole debate over privacy is a little burry. In general, you can’t expect privacy in public places and the opposite is expected when you’re in private property. Still, there’s such a thing as no invasion of privacy in private property. This is why it’s important to judge case by case.
So, is it legal to peer through apartment windows? It depends on each situation. If there are no curtains, there’s no privacy expected. If the windows are open, the same can be assumed. Now, if you’re trying to look through the curtains, then you’re invading their privacy and the Peeping Tom Laws may apply in this case.
Now, if you’re thinking that this whole thing is complicated, you’re right. It’s complex to the point that even law enforcement authorities may get confused about what is okay and what is not in these situations. So, keep reading below to find out how to distinguish when is legal and when is not to peer through apartment windows.
Peeping Tom Laws
Peeping Tom laws are difficult to understand because they are blurry on their definitions. It also depends on whether or not your state applies those laws. For instance, in New York, Tom Peeping laws are not applied. This means that it isn’t illegal to use binoculars or telescopes to watch the neighborhood.
Even though there’s some privacy expected when you’re in your own home, just peering through a window isn’t a crime. The point is that depending on your location and even on what instrument you are using, people can’t complain about your snooping.
So, it’s crucial that you know whether or not the Peeping Tom laws are applied in your state, and then, understand them. This is the best way to make sure that you’re not breaking the law. A good starting point is to understand what expected privacy means when it comes to these laws.
Accidentally Seeing Something Through Binoculars Isn’t Illegal
Even in states where Peeping Tom laws are applied, you can still use binoculars from your windows. Now, there might be a legal argument to be done if you’re using them to spy on your neighbor. Still, these are murky waters since it’s hard to prove that you were spying rather than observing the stars.
In most cases, there’s nothing wrong about observing something with your binoculars. If you accidentally see something happening, it’s not your fault. It’s also up to you to determine what’s okay and what isn’t to be observed. For instance, if you’re witnessing a fight, it might be a good idea to call the police.
So, make sure that you use your binocular discretely. There’s nothing wrong with observing the neighborhood. If the windows are open or if they don’t have curtains, it’s okay to look to it. Even with curtains, as long as things inside are visible from the outside, you’re not infringing people’s privacy.
Recording People Can Be Illegal
It’s one thing to observe the neighborhood from your window, and it’s another to record people. For instance, it’s not illegal to record audio from your surveillance cameras. It’s okay because those people are on the streets, which constitutes a public place.
Now, when someone is in their own home, things change completely. You can’t record people be it in your home or theirs without their consent. If they’re in private property, even if it’s your property, you cannot record people without their knowledge and consent.
Still, if your recording device picks up audio from the streets, it’s completely okay that you do so. You just have to be aware of recording people in their house or yours because this will bring you legal trouble if they find out about it.
So, make sure to be discrete and follow the rules to avoid trouble. If you’re looking for a great audio recorder that can capture audio from long ranges, you must check out this one.
If There Are No Curtains, There May No Be Limits
Even though there’s expected privacy inside your house, things can get confusing when there are no curtains involved. If someone can clearly see inside a house, like a room that has no curtains, privacy can’t be expected. Therefore, you can peer through it.
Obviously, this is starting from the idea that you’re watching from a distance like when using a binocular. If you’re talking about actually being in contact with the window, then it’s another story. The point is that you can look into windows that have no curtains.
So, if someone left the window open or without curtains, it wouldn’t be a problem to observe inside with a binocular. Observing from a distance is almost always okay.
Don’t Invade Private Property
The only instance that it’s definitely not okay is to peer through a window in direct contact with said window. The reason is that to do so, you will have to invade private property. This is another crime of its own, and it can have an even worse penalty.
This is why you should be careful when you’re peering through a window if you’re not using binoculars. If you get inside someone’s private property, it will constitute a crime.
So, extra careful. The best you can do is to continue to observe things from a binocular or telescope. This method will give you a perfect view and no problems with the law.
Know The Laws Of Your State
The last part is the most important one. You should know the laws of your state. If you’re doing something that may in, some way, raise eyebrows or be considered questionable, you should make sure that it’s legal. The least you want to do is to break the law knowing that you’re doing it.
The Peeping Tom laws are the first thing that you must research. Know if they’re applied in your state and how they’re applied. Then, you should be aware of other laws in regards to this.
The point is that you should be knowledgeable on the subject. Do your research to save yourself some headache in the future. Also, depending on where you live, you should look for the neighborhood rules that might exist.
So, as you can see, you can look outside your window as much as you want. Still, you should be careful, depending on the laws of your state, to not invade someone’s privacy. In places like New York, the apartment buildings are too close to each other, so there may not be any expected privacy under these conditions.
Also, you should remember that If your camera is recording audio from the streets, this means a public place, it’s okay to record audio and video since there’s no expected privacy. Now, if it’s inside your property, you might have to put a warning to let people know they’re being recorded. Keep this in mind, and you won’t have problems.