“Video Cameras and Recording: Is It Legal?”

In recent years the cost and portability of video cameras has improved to the point where people can videotape nearly anywhere at any time. Cell phone cameras have made them easily portable and available for instant use.

There are a lot of legal questions that have come up regarding cameras, and not all of them have clear answers yet. For instance, can you videotape your neighbor’s house? Their backyard? What about recording visitation exchanges?

The over-arching principle that is used is the reasonable right and expectation of privacy. Is the video being made somewhere that the person being taped would have the reasonable expectation of privacy? The rights not to have your privacy invaded come from the Constitution of the United States, and have been interpreted in cases such as Katz v. United States (1967) and others.

In general, this means that public places are fair game. If you are exchanging minors in a public place, such as a restaurant, a park, or even a public street or house front that can be seen from the street, there is no expectation that the exchange is private, and it can be videotaped.
However, if you are videotaping private spaces, such as the inside of a house or even a backyard that is protected by an opaque fence, you may be invading the privacy of the subject of the videotaping.

Possible consequences include a civil lawsuit under California Civil Code Section 1708.8, which outlines the cause of action for constructive invasion of privacy, and criminal prosecution under California Penal Code 647(j).

In a family law case, it is always a good idea to ask the judge for permission to record exchanges if there have been problems during them in the past, and if you are having an issue with a neighbor recording you, or if you wish to record a neighbor for evidentiary purposes, you really need to talk with a lawyer about the issues to figure out the best course of action.

DISCLAIMER: All legal principles quoted are valid as of the date of writing in the State of California. However, you should NEVER base your actions on a legal article, blog, or internet story, as facts in real life are complicated. You should have your case evaluated by an attorney experienced in the area of law needed for your case. In addition, there are often exceptions and potential changes to results that occur due to facts that you may think are trivial or unimportant. This article should not be taken in any way as legal advice on your specific legal matter.

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