Peeping Defense Lawyer in North Carolina

You have probably heard of the term “peeping-tom” before. It may evoke the image of a person stealthily peeking into windows, holes in restroom walls or other openings to spy on other people, which gives them a sexual thrill. You may also picture a person installing hidden cameras in bathroom stalls, creeping on neighbors engaging in sexual intercourse and taking photos, or any other act that would be considered sexual in nature and an invasion of privacy.

While this version of peeping certainly applies to some of the more serious peeping crimes in North Carolina, peeping laws do not explicitly require a sexual motivation. North Carolina’s peeping statute covers a wide range of behavior, from simply “peeping” into a room with another person inside, to installing hidden cameras for one’s own sexual arousal. If you have been accused or are facing any kind of peeping charges, you will need an experienced defense lawyer. Even if the initial penalties of the crime may not seem too severe, accepting a conviction of peeping could have a lasting effect on your life, such as sex offender registration. If you are facing charges for peeping, you should contact an experienced sex crime defense lawyer as soon as possible.

a public bathroom stall, a common location for peeping

Definitions and Elements of Peeping Crimes

Before diving into all the variations of peeping crimes in North Carolina, it is important to understand what the key elements and meaning of certain terms. Below are key terms you will find in North Carolina’s peeping statute and their meanings:

  • Peeping: to look cautiously or slyly, as if through a crevice, out from chinks and knotholes. It is intentional and for the purpose of invading the privacy of the occupant in the room.
  • Room: A room includes but is not limited to a bedroom, rest room, bathroom shower, and changing or dressing rooms. Ultimately, any room where the occupant has an expectation of privacy that can be invaded could qualify as a “room” under peeping statute.
  • Photographic Image: Any photograph, photographic reproduction, videotape, motion picture, live television transmission or digital image of any individual person.

Additionally, there are the following two other important factors to understand:

  • Gender-Neutrality: While we most often think of peeping as something a man does to women or girls, the statute is gender-neutral and women can be charged for peeping as well.
  • Law Enforcement and Corrections Exception: This statute does not apply to law enforcement and corrections agents, such as detention officers monitoring inmates in their cells.

Special Penalties and Sentencing Elements

There are special sentencing provisions that apply to peeping offenses. If a defendant is convicted of peeping and placed on probation rather than serving time in jail, the judge may require that the defendant is psychologically evaluated. If the evaluation recommends any treatment, the defendant is required to comply with it. For a second time offense that is given probation, the judge must require both a psychological evaluation and compliance with treatment.

Peeping convictions also may require the court to consider sex offender registration, though this depends on both the form of peeping the defendant was convicted of and whether it is their first offense or a subsequent offense of peeping.

Types of Peeping Crimes in North Carolina

The crime of peeping in North Carolina largely falls under a single statute, N.C.G.S § 14-202 which describes a range of illegal behavior from misdemeanors to felonies. We have summarized this statute below with all the variations of peeping and their respective elements and penalties.

 

Peeping into a Room Occupied by Another

A person is guilty of this crime when they “peep secretly” into a room that is occupied by another person. Essentially, this means that there is no requirement to prove a sexual element for the person peeping, but the defendant does have to be guilty of intentionally violating the occupant’s privacy, following the definition of “peeping”. 

A first-time conviction of this crime is punished as a class 1 misdemeanor. Any subsequent offense is punished as a class A1 misdemeanor. For a second or subsequent violation of this form of peeping, the court is required to consider whether the defendant poses a danger to their community and should be registered as a sex offender.

Peeping Underneath or Through Clothing

A person is guilty of this crime when they:

  • peep secretly underneath or through clothing worn by another person,
  • using a mirror or other device
  • for the purpose of viewing the other person’s body or undergarments, and
  • without that person’s consent.

As with the above, a first-time conviction of this crime is punished as a class 1 misdemeanor. Any subsequent offense is punished as a class A1 misdemeanor. For a second or subsequent violation of this form of peeping, the court is required to consider whether the defendant poses a danger to their community and should be registered as a sex offender.

Peeping While Possessing a Device Capable of Creating a Photographic Image

A person is guilty of this crime when they peep secretly into any room while in possession of any device which may be used to create a photographic image. Unlike the above versions of peeping, this one does not explicitly require an occupant in the room. However, because peeping is defined as being intentional for the purpose of invading privacy, it would typically still involve an occupant, or at least the expectation and attempt to see the occupant to take private photos of videos of them. Additionally, the defendant only needs to be guilty of being in possession of a device that can take such images, but does not require that they used the device. Using the device would constitute a greater crime.

A first-time conviction is punished as a class A1 misdemeanor. Any subsequent offense is punished as a class I felony. As with the two offenses above, for a second or subsequent violation of this form of peeping the court is required to consider whether the defendant poses a danger to their community and should be registered as a sex offender.

Peeping Using a Photographic Imaging Device

This crime is similar to the above but with the requirements that the defendant:

  • peeps while using any device to create a photographic image of another person in that room.
  • for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire of any person.

This means that unlike the above crime, the defendant is required to have used the device specifically to take photographic images or videos of another person in the room.They are also required to have done so for a sexual purpose, though it need not be their own. For example, if a person peeps and takes photos of their neighbor in the nude to distribute the images to others who find it sexually gratifying, this satisfies the elements of this crime.

A first time conviction is punished as a class I felony. A second or subsequent offense is a class H felony. Unlike all the above versions of peeping, a first conviction and all subsequent convictions require the sentencing court to consider whether the defendant needs to register as a sex offender.

Secretly Using a Photographic Imaging Device to View Another's Body or Undergarments

A person is guilty of this crime when they:

  • Secretly or slyly
  • use any device to create photographic images of another person
  • underneath or through the person’s clothing
  • for the purpose of viewing the person’s body or undergarments, and
  • without the person’s consent.

This crime is essentially almost the same as “Peeping Underneath or Through Clothing” described above, but requiring the use of a photographic imaging device.

A first time conviction is punished as a class I felony. A second or subsequent offense is a class H felony. A first conviction and all subsequent convictions require the sentencing court to consider whether the defendant needs to register as a sex offender.

Secretly Using or Installing a Photographic Imaging Device to Arouse or Gratify Sexual Desire

A person is guilty of this crime when they:

  • Secretly or slyly
  • for the purpose of arousing the sexual desire of any person
  • uses or installs any device that can be used to create a photographic image
  • in any room
  • with the intent to capture the image of another person without their consent.

This essentially is referring to the installing of hidden cameras and similar devices to record or capture people in private rooms. As with the other version of peeping that includes a sexual element, the person installing the device does not need to be doing so for their own sexual desire.

A first time conviction is punished as a class I felony. A second or subsequent offense is a class H felony. A first conviction and all subsequent convictions require the sentencing court to consider whether the defendant needs to register as a sex offender.

Posessing a Photographic Image Obtained in Violation of the Peeping Statute

This crime is distinct from the above as it does not require actually peeping, but possessing photos or videos obtained through peeping. A person is guilty of this crime when they:

  • knowingly possess
  • a photographic image
  • knowing or having reason to know that the image was obtained through peeping.

Essentially, you cannot be guilty of this crime for simply being in possession of the images, you must know you are in possession of them and know or have good reason to know that they were obtained through peeping.

A first time conviction is punished as a class I felony. A second or subsequent offense is a class H felony. A first conviction and all subsequent convictions require the sentencing court to consider whether the defendant needs to register as a sex offender.

Disseminating Images Obtained in Violation of the Peeping Statute

Like the above, this crime does not require that the defendant did the peeping themselves. A person is guilty of this crime when they:

  • disseminate images or allow images to be disseminated
  • that the person knows or should have known were obtained through peeping, and
  • the dissemination is without consent of the person in the image.

A first time conviction is punished as a class I felony. A second or subsequent offense is a class H felony. A first conviction and all subsequent convictions require the sentencing court to consider whether the defendant needs to register as a sex offender.

What if the Occupant is a Minor?

The peeping statutes in North Carolina do not include a version of the crime for minors, though one would think the state would want to punish such a crime with more severity than peeping on adults. While this statute does not include an explicit aggravating element for the victim being a minor, you could expect additional charges under other statutes when there is a minor victim.

If the case involves a defendant who used or attempted to use a photographic imaging device to take photos of videos of a child that could be deemed “sexually gratifying” (to a pedophile or child predator), the defendant could be looking at very serious child pornography charges. If there was no possession or use of such a device but the defendant was still peeping at a minor for sexual gratification, the defendant could be looking at indecent liberties charges. If it was merely an invasion of privacy of a completely non-sexual nature, without any photographic device, the crime may simply fall under peeping alone.

Defending Against Peeping Charges

As with a lot of other sex crimes, juries tend to not be on the defendant’s side, especially if the prosecution can successfully paint the defendant as a “creep” and offender. This means that defending these cases can be a real uphill battle which only an experienced and skilled attorney could take on. While perception and bias can play a huge role in these cases, there are still facts that the prosecution is required to prove for the defendant to be guilty. A skilled lawyer can make sure they stick to the facts and point out the weaknesses or gaps in the prosecution’s case. Defense strategy highly depends on the specifics of the case, but some general approaches include:

  • Challenging the notion of intent to invade privacy.
  • For possession or dissemination of images or videos obtained through people, we can challenge whether the defendant knew the character of such images.
  • Whether the occupant of the room can be correctly identified.
  • Whether the defendant was misidentified.
  • Challenging whether the act was performed for anyone’s sexual gratification, if that element is required to prove.

If you are facing any peeping charges, you should get in contact with an experienced lawyer to review your case and candidly discuss what the best method of approach should be. The attorneys at Tarlton Polk Law have the skills and credibility it takes to fight these charges, and work closely with our clients to make sure they fully understand how we believe the issue should be approached and what the outcomes could be. In any case, we put our client’s best interests first. If you want to schedule a consultation with us, simply fill out the contact form below or give us a call and we will get back in touch soon!

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