Do you live in West Palm Beach? Are you contemplating whether you should install a home video surveillance system?
If you answered yes to either of these questions, you are in the right place! This article will take you through the legal aspects of security cameras used at your private property: from where you can place cameras in your home to what types of surveillance are allowed to be used in court proceedings.
When is it Illegal?
The law does not prohibit individuals from installing video cameras on their own property so long as their placement fulfils various criteria as described in Florida’s “video voyeurism” statute §810.145:
A person commits the offense of video voyeurism if that person intentionally uses or permits the use or installation of an imaging device to secretly view, broadcast, or record a person, without that person’s knowledge and consent… when that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
The expectation of privacy is a key legal concept in the area of surveillance videos.
Many sports clubs, estates, and gated communities use surveillance cameras to deter prohibited or illegal activity or for video evidence of intentional negligence. When pointed towards common areas, it is legal as, even without a camera, these are public places void of privacy.
When it comes to hidden cameras that are not situated in plain view, they are legal – as long as you have posted signs explicitly stating that cameras are being used on your property.
However, it is illegal to record video in a common area where individuals expect privacy or might be in a state of undress, like bathrooms or locker rooms, for instance. It is also illegal for video recording to intrude into other people’s private spaces. Signage or no signage, that is an invasion of privacy.
Additionally, in Florida it is a criminal offense to make audio recordings of another unless you have their consent. (There is room for interpretation surrounding the expectation of privacy, but it is safer to stick with video footage that does not include audio.)
Can it Be Used in a Court Case?
Having read when home video surveillance is inadmissible, you might be getting hot under the collar about the rights of criminals trumping our rights.
Thankfully, common sense prevails when it comes to those who make security cameras necessary in the first place! If someone is trespassing on your property with ill intent, they will not be considered to be in an area where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Intruders, criminals, and the like are deemed to have automatically waived their right to privacy when they chose to enter your property uninvited. So, you are allowed to record them without their permission or knowledge if necessary.
When Can the Footage Not be Used?
At face value, there are no laws that prohibit private citizens from using video cameras to monitor their personal property, including the exterior of their homes and yards. The same is true for hidden cameras, audio recordings, or any other form of covert surveillance.
However, when you rent out your vacation home, the tenants have a reasonable expectation of privacy everywhere on your property!
Choosing the Right Placement for the Cameras
Carefully check any cameras that you have aimed at public areas of your rental property, e.g., front security gates. Make sure that the background does not accidentally include a view into one of the rooms. Keep video of parking spaces at an angle that does not show the inside of vehicles.
Note that county ordinances vary, and the law is constantly changing, so it’s best to consult an expert before acting. The law doesn’t always make sense, either – there are some things that are perfectly legal but may still seem shady or unethical to you. The same applies for actions that are technically illegal, but you feel there were extenuating circumstances that justify why you did what you did.
For the highest standards of professionalism and integrity, turn to Florida Estate Management Services. We have 150 years of combined experience (with an average of over 18 years of experience) in the property management industry. Get in touch with us today for additional advice on how to go about installing a home video surveillance system without getting into trouble with the law.