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The Changing Times and Invasion of Privacy Crimes

Let’s face it. Nothing is private anymore. If you use Face book, most of your friends probably share their most intimate, as well as their most mundane moments with you and the rest of their virtual world. We live in no ordinary time.

So, what happened in New Jersey this past September when two freshmen secretly placed a camera in a dorm room and broadcasted a live feed of a fellow student’s "sexual encounter" on the internet, raise important issues in criminal law - issues that affect our criminal defense practice here at Sullivan & Brill, LLP.

In New York, PL §250 addresses offenses against the right to privacy. These offenses continue to evolve with the times. Included in this section are charges involving eavesdropping and wiretapping. Usually, a charge like this existed when one was accused of tapping another’s phone (perhaps by an estranged lover), unknown to the parties engaged in the phone conversation. Also, most states, including New York, have enacted laws that make it a crime to surveil, and disseminate that surveillance. These offenses usually involve the surveillance of something sexual in nature such as, "peeping toms" or voyeurs for their own deviant enjoyment. Given the immense popularity of You Tube, My Space, and the ubiquitous web cams and mini digital cameras in the market, the ease with which one can upload or stream a video - any video - is staggering. So, it is not surprising that we are seeing an increase in these types of dissemination cases. Indeed, it is exactly this type of dissemination crime that the prosecutors in New Jersey on the Rutgers case are basing their charges.

And what is the appropriate punishment? Some prosecutors have made rumblings that if the victim of this unlawful surveillance reacts in a way that leads to self-inflicted injury or suicide then the appropriate charge could be a lot worse than an offense against privacy