Hidden Cameras, GPS Devices, and Audio Bugs in Washington DC: What’s Legal?
Washington DC is the capitol of the United States which makes it seem like it and the surrounding area is in a constant state of motion. With all of the busyness of the nation’s capitol, it is almost a necessity to use technology in order to get anything done. Cell phones, computers, laptops, and other technological wonders are keeping the area humming along. While technology is designed to make our lives easier it is sometimes used for darker reasons. This may sound like something out of a George Orwell novel, but it has come true for many people in Washington DC. Hidden cameras, audio bugs, and GPS devices are used to spy on others, even if they aren’t public officials or figures. What does the law say about the use of these devices?
Hidden Camera Laws in Washington DC
Washington DC has strict laws related to the installation and use of hidden cameras. In DC, it is a crime to record someone with a hidden camera in a home without the owner’s expressed and informed consent. Hidden cameras are illegal to use in public spaces such as a park, public sidewalk, restaurant patio unless it is placed in compliance with the law, such as a camera placed by the city during official business. It is illegal to install a hidden camera in a bathroom, changing room, or any other space where a reasonable expectation of privacy exists.
Audio Bugs Use Laws in Washington DC
Washington DC is a one-party consent district. One party consent means that if there is a conversation occurring between two or more people, even while in a generally considered private space, at least one person must give consent to be recorded or monitored. If someone does not get consent in the District of Columbia, they may be charged with eavesdropping. Installation of an audio bug or being caught with eavesdropping devices may lead to a misdemeanor charge if it is a first offense. It is also a separate charge if someone is caught installing audio bug devices.
GPS Device Use Laws in Washington DC
For the purpose of discussing GPS devices for surveillance in Washington DC, this section does not refer to:
- Law enforcement using GPS devices after obtaining a warrant;
- GPS monitoring devices ordered by the court to monitor an offender’s location;
- GPS devices that are built-in to a vehicle for emergency services or navigation; and
- GPS devices installed by a car dealership for the purposes of monitoring the location of a vehicle that hasn’t been paid off.
According to Washington DC, the use of GPS devices to pursue, harass or otherwise track a person is considered stalking. This may involve pursuit, surveillance, or nonconsensual contact on more than one occasion without having a legitimate purpose. Just like with audio bugs, their unauthorized use may lead to criminal and civil charges. Despite this, many people use GPS devices (both built-in and planted) to track without consent.
Risk Factors for Spying in Washington DC
You don’t have to be a politician or other high profile person for someone to spy on you with one or more of those devices. It happens more and more to regular, “every day” people. It’s not something that anyone really wants to think about, but it’s important to do so in order to protect your privacy and possibly even your physical safety. Most people going through a divorce, or child custody dispute, often find themselves find themselves being stalked, blackmailed, threatened or harassed from information found through the use of hidden cameras, audio bugs, and GPS devices. The other party may be doing this to try and prove you are an unfit parent, scare you into returning to them, or they want to try to ruin your life.
In addition to family law scenarios, other common reasons someone may be using a hidden camera, audio bug, or GPS device against you may include:
- You own a business. Business size and industry do not matter. A competitor could want to steal your business secrets. A current or former employee could be upset with you and looking for information they can use to get back at you. Regardless of the underlying reason, corporate espionage could include placing hidden cameras or audio bugs in offices and conference rooms, or even using apps to monitor your phone calls, VOIP calls, web conferencing, and video conferencing. They could even use your web cam and microphone to see and hear you without you knowing it. Keyloggers could be used to record everything you type. They may even be able to read all of your text messages and emails.
- You’re involved in settling an insurance claim or you have a lawsuit for an injury of some kind. The other party may use hidden cameras to try and show that they don’t think you’re really hurt. They may also use audio bugs to listen to your conversations to try to get incriminating information about you and then use it to threaten you into dropping your claim.
- You have a jealous, possessive, or abusive significant other. GPS devices, audio bugs and hidden cameras as well as apps for digital devices are used more and more in situations where someone feels the need to abuse or control their partner. These devices can create a dangerous situation for the victim.
If You’re in Washington DC and Think Someone Is Spying on You, Here’s What You Should Do
If you think that someone may be using a hidden camera, audio device, or a GPS device to spy on you, take the following steps to help preserve your safety and increase the likelihood that the hidden device or devices will be found so that you may talk with a lawyer about your potential legal remedies:
- Don’t tell anyone about it except to your attorney. Even then, you should only talk with your attorney in person in their office and with no one else in there with you. You should also power off your cell phone while you talk with them. It’s important to not talk with others because you may not know who planted the device, what sort of device it is, or if there is more than one. If you really want to get to the bottom of the situation, you must keep your suspicions to yourself. Otherwise, whoever placed it may remove the device before it can be found and they can be identified.
- Don’t change up your routine too much. It’s scary to think that someone may be spying on you for any reason. It’s tempting to change up your routine. If you want to find the device and (hopefully) prosecute the offender, you’ll need to remain calm. You don’t want to tip them off. Stick to your routine (for now) as much as you can unless you truly fear for your safety. Otherwise, whoever placed it may remove it before it can be found and they can be identified.
- Get to a safe location and call Spy Catchers at 1-800-373-8726 to schedule an appointment to have a professional come and sweep your home, office, and vehicle. We provide free estimates in Washington DC. We want to help you regain your peace of mind and your privacy.