Now that almost everyone has a high-quality camera in their pocket at all times, there are many legal questions about when taking pictures of someone is okay and when it isn’t. Generally, pictures taken in public are allowed, but there could be some circumstances where taking a photo could get you into trouble with the law.
Generally, you can take pictures of people in public places without their permission. However, some “public places” are still private enough to make taking pictures illegal, such as in bathrooms and changing rooms. There are also specific laws dealing with peering into homes or taking photos of someone’s intimate parts, even if you were lawfully in a public place when the photo was taken.
If you have been charged with a crime for taking pictures of someone in public, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. For a free case review, call us at (609) 616-4956.
Do You Need Consent to Take Someone’s Picture in New Jersey?
In a public place, you can usually take pictures of people. While some people might consider this rude, the actual act of taking pictures is not criminalized in public places. This means that if you happen to get other tourists in a photo at the beach, there should be no criminal repercussions for this. However, things get more complicated when you are taking pictures of other people as the central focus of the photo.
Is it Legal to Take Someone’s Photo in Public Without Permission in New Jersey?
If you are in a public place taking photos of someone else who is also in a public place, there should be no criminal repercussions involved. However, the act of taking a photo could be implicated in other crimes. Many of these situations are very fact specific, so make sure to speak with our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers if you have any questions about what you can and cannot do or if you are facing any charges for taking photos.
One example is NJ’s stalking statute. Under this law, following and photographing someone without their permission would be illegal under N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-10. For your actions to rise to the level of stalking, they must constitute a “course of conduct” rather than one single action, and they must be done in a way that could put someone in fear for their safety. This is often implicated in cases involving paparazzi or people taking pictures of celebrities in addition to traditional stalking cases.
“Public” vs. “Private” Locations
Taking photos without permission is only allowed in public places, such as outdoors. Some “public places” are on private property, such as restaurants, casinos, and hotels, and they might have rules barring photography (especially in places like movie theaters). Some “public places,” like courthouses, might also have restrictions on photography.
Video and Recording Rules
Keep in mind that these rules are only for photos. Videos and audio recordings could be illegal – even in public – if they intercept and record a conversation between other people. New Jersey is a one-party consent state, which means that at least one party to the conversation has to consent to having it recorded. If you are recording video of someone talking to you, your consent should make that permissible, but recording a conversation between two strangers might be a violation.
Taking Photos of People in Private Areas in NJ
If the subject of the photo is in a private place like a bathroom or a changing room, taking their photo without their consent is likely illegal. In some situations, we might be able to argue that there was no expectation of privacy based on the specific situation at hand. This could allow our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers to potentially fight your charges, but this defense is not always available.
Invasion of Privacy Laws
N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-9’s “invasion of privacy” law makes it illegal to photograph someone without their permission if their “intimate parts” are exposed. This would typically make it illegal to photograph someone while they are using the toilet or changing their clothes. However, it might not block you from photographing someone using the sink or the mirror in a restroom, nor someone using a mirror in a shared dressing room area. However, courts will look heavily into the specific situation and the reasonable expectations of privacy involved.
Peeping Tom Laws
If you are in a place you have permission to be – such as on the street or across the street in your own home or hotel room – can you take photos through someone else’s window? If the subject of the photograph is in a home or other overnight dwelling place (e.g., a hotel room), then you are not allowed to “peer” through their windows under N.J.S.A. § 2C:18-3(c). This is colloquially known as NJ’s “peeping Tom” law and would also bar taking photographs through their window. Photographing or taking video through the window of someone engaged in intimate situations might be a violation of both § 2C:18-3’s “peeping Tom” provision as well as the “invasion of privacy” provisions of § 2C:14-9.
There are some caveats in this law, such as the requirement that the purpose of your “peering” was to invade the victim’s privacy and that a reasonable person would not expect to be observed. Taking video of a crime in progress or something to that effect might be permitted, depending on the situation.
Can You Take Intimate Photos in Public Without Someone’s Permission?
Attempts to take photos of someone in an intimate or revealing situation might be illegal even if you are both in a public place. People are often quick to snap a photo of “wardrobe malfunctions,” and people sometimes use invasive techniques to take “upskirt” photos and other similar pictures and videos.
These are also generally illegal under § 2C:14-9’s “invasion of privacy” laws. There is no exception under this statute for the fact that the photos were taken in a public place, and the statute was in fact designed to make “upskirt” photos illegal even if they were taken in public places. Call our Cape May criminal defense lawyers right away for help with these charges.
Can You Sell Photos Taken Without Permission in NJ?
Generally speaking, using photos for a commercial purpose without the subject’s consent is illegal. Talk to an attorney for more information. In any case, selling a photo that was taken in violation of § 2C:14-9’s “invasion of privacy” laws is itself a violation of subsection (c) of that statute.
Call Our NJ Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
If you are a photographer and have questions about what you can and cannot photograph or you have been charged with a crime for illegal photographs, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych for a free case review with our Ocean City criminal defense lawyers. Our number is (609) 616-4956.