Spying or Peeping in Virginia – the Law Explained by our Fairfax Criminal Lawyer
Spying into a home or dwelling (or enclosure) is a crime against habitation. This offense, along with burglary, arson, and trespassing, make up the four most common offenses against habitation covered by our Virginia criminal attorney in Fairfax, VA.
Unlike arson and burglary, this offense is not as severely punished by Virginia law, but is still an offense to be taken seriously (it can result in jail time, a fine of up to several thousands of dollars, possible civil suits, and a damaged reputation).
If falsely accused of peeping or spying, or if the charge is dropped, or the defendant found not guilty, our Fairfax criminal lawyer highly suggests hiring counsel to file a petition for expungement. A criminal record reflecting an arrest such as this will make it difficult to obtain employment and possibly enjoy other privileges. It could also subject a person to undue embarrassment and ridicule.
Unlike Virginia trespassing laws, it is not a commonly charged criminal offense in the Commonwealth of Virginia. For more on the frequently charged offenses (and not-so frequently charged offenses) in Fairfax County, read our Fairfax criminal lawyer’s recent popular article and check out our legal team’s accompanying entertaining infographic.
Penalty for Peeping
According to Virginia Law1, the following described behavior is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in confinement and a possible fine of thousands of dollars. Below, our Fairfax Criminal Lawyer explains how one could be charged with a violation of this law based upon an alleged act of violating one’s reasonable expectation of privacy by peeping:
- through an opening (window, etc.) of a home or dwelling belonging to someone else;
- through an opening where one would reasonably expect privacy such as a restroom; and,
- by a landlord, through owned by the peeper and leased or in use by another.
Peeping Through a Window or Opening of a Dwelling
It is considered a violation of this law to look through an opening (such as a window), if that dwelling or home is intended to be presently occupied. Similarly, a landlord might be accused of this crime if he or she peeps into a home or apartment he or she owns, but is leased to another person.
Spying into Place Where One Would Expect Privacy
It is also a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia to look through an opening, such as a peephole, with the intent to peep or spy into:
- hotel room
- a public restroom
- dressing room
- tanning booth, or
- other similar places
If a charged individual is accused of intentionally viewing a non-consenting person who is in a state of undress (either full nudity or partial nudity), and if the location is somewhere that a person would expect privacy (not to be spied on), then the law probably applies.
The law does not apply to an official conducting a criminal investigation or a jail or correctional official conducting appropriate surveillance if the purpose is related to security. This does not mean inappropriate surveillance or lewd or out of bounds conduct under the guise of a criminal investigation is legal…it is not.
If faced with an accusation, investigation, or charge of any kind, take the situation seriously and do not waste time contemplating whether or not a Virginia defense attorney ought to be consulted. Many local Fairfax criminal lawyers will offer a free consultation.
While it is certainly true that there are some criminal offenses which most people do consider to be minor (failing to license a pet dog comes to mind), most other misdemeanors and felonies truly will damage a person’s reputation in some way or another, not to mention possibly lead to fines and jail time if convicted.
Peeping or spying is one such crime that, while it is a misdemeanor, can tarnish a person’s perceived image or character for years or for the rest of their life. Some people contact our Virginia and Fairfax County criminal defense law firm because they do not want to go to jail (e.g., an assault charge); others have a philosophical problem with the nature of the charge (e.g., some people do not believe marijuana should be prohibited); some accused individuals want to avoid monetary implications (e.g., the insurance cost-related ramifications following a reckless driving conviction); but a small set of misdemeanors (e.g., the peeping law discussed on this page), lead most charged individuals to hire an attorney due to the blow a conviction would cause to their good name. We do not judge others; we believe any accused or charged person, no matter the alleged offense, deserves fair treatment by the criminal justice system. After all, the notion of fairness and equality is what makes America so great.
References Cited by our Virginia Criminal Lawyer and Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney
The Code of Virginia
 § 18.2-130. Peeping or spying into dwelling or enclosure.
Image Credits: “Lady Looking Through Binocular” by imagerymajestic | “Spy Lady” by adamr via freedigitalphotos.net |
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