Utah Couple Facing Voyeurism Charges after Using Drone to Invade Privacy of Neighbors

A Utah couple is facing class A misdemeanor voyeurism charges after they used a personal drone to invade the privacy of their neighbors.

Nosy drone

Photo by: Andrew Turner

Photo by: Andrew Turner

39 year old Aaron Dennis Foote of Orem, Utah and his 34 year old girlfriend Terisha Lee Norviel were arrested after a neighbor saw the drone filming through his open window, seized the unmanned aircraft, and handed it over to police. Authorities discovered the drone had been used to film multiple people while in their bedrooms and/or bathrooms on single level as well as multiple level residences. Police were able to quickly apprehend Foote and Norviel after using info collected by the drone including a picture of Foote’s face as well as his license plate.

Voyeurism

According to Utah Code 76-9-702.7, there are various penalties associated with voyeurism. The penalty for voyeurism is a class B misdemeanor if the person “views or attempts to view an individual, with or without the use of any instrumentality;

(a) With the intent of viewing any portion of the individual’s body regarding which the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy, whether or not that portion of the body is covered with clothing;

(b) Without the knowledge or consent of the individual; and

(c) Under circumstances in which the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

That charge is increased to a Class A misdemeanor if the victim of voyeurism is a child less than 14 years of age.

Voyeurism using concealed electronic equipment

VoyeurismWhen concealed electronic equipment such as a hidden camera or a spy drone outside a window is used to commit voyeurism, the charge is increased to a class A misdemeanor or third degree felony if the voyeurism is committed against a child under 14 years of age. Again, the charges remain the same based strictly on intent. Whether or not the person committing voyeurism succeeded in viewing the private areas of the other individual(s) body remains irrelevant.

Criminal penalties

According to Utah State Courts:

• a third degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine;

• a class A misdemeanor carries a possible jail term of up to one year plus a $2,500 fine;

• Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Anyone facing charges for voyeurism, with or without a drone, should consult with a criminal defense attorney to discuss any felony or misdemeanor charges.

Strict Probation for Utah Sex Offenders

Sex offenders in Utah are required to abide by a strict probationary program until their name is removed from the sex offender registry.

Ten years to life

Photo by: West Midlands Police

Photo by: West Midlands Police

Regardless of the severity of the offense, those who make the registry of sex offenders can expect to stay on that list for at least ten years. The Utah Department of Corrections states that those persons who are convicted of the following crimes will be on the registry of sex offenders for ten years after they are done with their jail or prison time:

“1. Kidnapping
2. Voyeurism
3. Unlawful Sexual Activity with a Minor
4. Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a 16 or 17 Year Old
5. Forcible Sexual Abuse
6. Incest
7. Lewdness (4 convictions required for registration)
8. Sexual Battery (4 convictions required for registration)
9. Lewdness Involving a Child
10. Aggravated Human Trafficking
11. Custodial Sexual Relations (if victim was under 18 years of age)
12. Sexual Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult
13. Sexual abuse of a minor
14. Attempting, soliciting, or conspiring to commit any felony offense listed above (or in the “life” list below)”

Those found guilty of any crimes on this subsequent list, or those convicted more than once for any crimes on the above list, will be on the registry for sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

“1. Child Kidnapping
2. Aggravated Kidnapping
3. Enticing a Minor over the Internet
4. Rape
5. Rape of a Child
6. Object Rape
7. Object Rape of a Child
8. Forcible Sodomy
9. Sodomy on a Child
10. Sexual Abuse of a Child or Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Child
11. Aggravated Sexual Assault
12. Sexual Exploitation of a Minor [child pornography]
13. Aggravated Exploitation of Prostitution”

According to this second list, after their sentencing is over, a person who was caught with child pornography is treated the same as someone convicted of rape of a child. While these two crimes seem hardly comparable to many, why does it matter if their name is registered? What does being on the sex offender registry entail?

More than a list of names

Photo by: micadew

Photo by: micadew

When someone is on the registry of sex offenders in Utah, not only is their name exposed for anyone looking through public records, they also have strict laws that they must follow as long as their name is on the registry, even for a lifetime. These laws include restricting:

Where they live. If sex offenders which to move, they must first get permission. This includes moving residences within the same city.
Where they work. Their choice of employment must also be approved by a parole officer.
Public places they frequent. Those convicted of offenses against minors may not be in any area where children meet. This can include: schools, parks, public pools, and even family get togethers.
Who they have contact with. The most obvious restriction regarding who sex offenders have contact with is the victims and their families. Additionally, those convicted of sexual offenses against children may not have contact with minors under the age of 18. This can include children of significant others.
Even how late at night they are allowed out in public. According to the UDC, when required, “[they] must enter into and successfully complete established progressive curfews, or electronic monitoring where available.”

Some of these restrictions can be altered slightly but only after a parole officer has given written permission.

Life changing

Being registered as a sex offender can dramatically change the way a person lives for the rest of their lives. Just as someone is on probation or parole, everything that sex offenders do and everywhere they go is restricted and documented. In fact, according to the UDC, “sex offenders are supervised even more closely and held to higher standards [than those facing probation and parole for other charges].” For those individuals who are facing charges of sexual offenses that could place them on the registry of sex offenders, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Voyeurism Charges for “Checking Someone Out”

“Checking someone out” discretely and without their consent can result in voyeurism charges.

Common cases of voyeurism

Photo by: Gareth Williams

Photo by: Gareth Williams

When the word voyeurism starts getting thrown around, it is typically due to someone videotaping or snapping a picture of another person when they are indecently exposed. Utah law does consider this voyeurism, however the charges are the same whether the person is dressed or not. Sneaking a picture of ANY part of someone’s body they would consider private can end in a class A misdemeanor or a 3rd degree felony if the person being looked over is under 14 years old. Dissemination of the images is a violation punishable as a 3rd degree felony or 2nd degree if the images are of a younger child.

Careful where you stare

Taking a picture or video isn’t necessary to be guilty of voyeurism. Merely looking (staring, ogling, gawking, rubbernecking) at a person’s private areas with or without clothing covering them is voyeurism. The lack of a picture simply brings it down a notch to a class B misdemeanor or a class A misdemeanor for a child under 14 years.

Ask permission first?

If someone crosses paths with another individual that they deem attractive, it could be incredibly uncomfortable to request their permission to look them over. That plea in itself would be entirely creepy to that other person. The only other option to avoid being guilty of voyeurism is to be a gentlemen (or a lady) and only view appropriate areas on them, such as their eyes, smile…or feet.

Excuse me, my eyes are up here

There are some notable problems with voyeurism laws:

• Who can be exactly sure WHERE another person is looking? This can apply to shorter people whose smile sits in close proximity to their chest area or to someone with an extremely distracting belt buckle.

Photo by: Helga Weber

Photo by: Helga Weber

• What about clothing that begs to be gawked over? Low cut shirts that reveal cleavage, short skirts or shorts, and tight clothing all trap individuals within close proximity to steal a glance, whether they want to or not. Should revealing clothing be considered consent?

For more information on voyeurism charges or laws regarding how to legally look at other people, contact a criminal defense attorney.