Technology has changed the way we do a lot of things: how people communicate, how they socialize, how they get information, how they are entertained, and how they commit crimes. Internet fraud, hacking, stalking, online solicitation of minors, and child pornography are among the crimes that are frequently carried out by use of technology. Even "peeping tom" crimes have changed to become technology-facilitated crimes.
Last week, University of Tulsa students discovered a micro card in a campus fitness center locker room. The card contained video images of men inside the locker room changing clothes. Investigators viewing surveillance video of the entrance to the fitness center identified a 34-year-old Broken Arrow man as their suspect.
According to a Tulsa newspaper, the man admitted to police that he had secretly placed a cell phone into a locker to covertly record men as they changed. He was arrested and booked into the Tulsa County jail on three complaints of peeping tom with photographic or electronic equipment. He was released on bond the next day.
While certainly, there are still traditional "peeping toms" lurking in the bushes and trying to peek through the window blinds, increasingly, these offenses are committed through use of secretly placed recording devices, including cell phones.
Oklahoma peeping tom laws are codified in 21 O.S. § 1171. In addition to "loitering around a residence to watch residents," the stereotypical peeping tom act, it is against the law to secretly photograph or make a videorecording of someone where he or she has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
The acts defined in the peeping tom statute may be prosecuted as either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the specific act involved:
- Hiding or loitering in the vicinity of a home, locker room, dressing room, restroom, or other place where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in an attempt to look upon the person in a clandestine manner is a misdemeanor.
- Taking a picture of a person's "private area," defined as "naked or undergarment-clad genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or any portion of the areola of the female breast," without the person's consent, and when the person reasonably believes the private area is shielded from public view (for example, "upskirt" photos) is a misdemeanor.
- Using photographic, electronic, or video equipment in a clandestine manner for any "illegal, illegitimate, prurient, lewd or lascivious purpose" in a place where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy is a felony. It is likewise a felony to distribute images gained in such a manner. Under these conditions, conviction carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.
Of course, this statute is assuming that the person viewed, photographed, or recorded is an adult aged 18 or older. If a minor is involved, the act could be charged as lewd or indecent acts or proposals to a child under 16, production of child pornography, or possession of child pornography. These are all felony sex crimes that require sex offender registration upon conviction.