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Law regarding expectation of privacy in your backyard/bedroom in Illinois.

Wheaton, IL |

My neighbor secretly installed a covert LED camera in his backyard (even using a bug zapper as a decoy light/sound). It had a motion sensor trigger that picked up movement when we were on our patio and even in our bedroom, setting off a buzzing sound similar to the bug zapper but not the same (lower, muffled). Even more creepy-he had told us all about the bug zapper in the beginning of the summer as if to resolve any questions we might have about all the weird noises. We confronted him about it and he denied it, but was obviously very nervous and paranoid that we asked. Since then, he seems to have a security system that occassionaly chirps and buzzes--that we hear when we are in the backyard. What expectation of privacy do we have in our backyard in Illinois and is it a criminal offense?

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Attorney answers 1


Look at the following case, which I was principal defense counsel in. You'll see that you don't have an expectation of privacy in your yard that will serve as the basis for an injunction preventing your neighbor from taking video of you. And, it's not a crime to film something outside, even if it's in your back yard. However, if he films inside your house, that is a criminal act and would be something you could get a court to enjoin.

Of course, he can never use an audio recorder, as that would constitute criminal eavesdropping under the current statutes. Hope this helps, but you may well wish to discuss the specific facts with a local attorney knowledgeable in this area.

Please be sure to mark the best answer to your question. My answers are general and do not form an attorney-client relationship. I'm happy to talk to prospective clients in my areas of concentration and geographical location.



Thanks for the response and the case; however, it' s my understanding that areas of your yard that would otherwise not be visible from public sidewalks, streets, etc. are protected as private by law because people have a reasonable expectation of privacy there. And isn't it illegal in all instances to videotape children under 18? Here's a summary of the law from Lisa Madigan's webs site, HB4275, that updated the state’s unauthorized recording laws to address new high-tech options available to Peeping Toms. The new law, sponsored by state Rep. John Millner (R-Carol Stream) and state Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), updates the state’s unauthorized videotaping statute by making it illegal to record or transmit live video images of a person in private locations without his or her permission. The measure closes a loophole that made it difficult for prosecutors to bring charges against individuals if they were using electronic devices to watch people live instead of recording the images. The new law also prohibits the dissemination of unauthorized video images over the internet, and tightens the definition of unauthorized activity to include placing a hidden video device with the intent to transmit or record the images captured. Now a person can be charged if a camera or recording device is found, even if actual recordings or transmissions are not found. Madigan pointed to a specific case in which a pediatric dentist placed a wireless camera in his office bathroom and used it to watch his staff. Because the images were not recorded, the unauthorized videotaping charges were dismissed. Under the new law, penalties are more severe for people who capture images of children under the age of 18, and for people who are required to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act. In cases where people are victimized in their own homes, the penalty is increased from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Class 4 Felony. If the person disseminates the image, the charge is increased from a Class 4 to a Class 3 Felony. If images are disseminated by a sex offender, or if the images are of a child, the penalties are increased from a Class 4 Felony to a Class 2 Felony. “I thank Attorney General Madigan for her collaboration in an effort to recognize and address the problem of changing technology and stagnant laws,” Millner said. “Together we have been able to circumvent the use of antiquated terms such as ‘recording’ and craft a new law that will make a real difference to the privacy rights of Illinois residents.” “With the growing popularity of digital cameras and other small electronic recording devices and the newfound ability to transit live images over the internet, we need to update our laws to protect the privacy of individuals,” Harmon said. “This new law will go far in addressing many issues and concerns created by the evolution of new technology.”

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