Private Investigators In Virginia

PI Chatter Professional Investigators in Virginia

Surveillance Photos & Privacy-What Is The Law

Posted by Bill on April 27, 2008

  Most private investigators conduct surveillance (see wikipedia surveillance) in various types of cases.  Probably the two most common types of cases needing surveillance are divorces and workers compensation cases.  Surveillance may play a role in many types of cases from crimes to background investigations.  

In a normal case, a private investigator will plan and organize a surveillance before actually going on site to begin.  To conduct a professional surveillance, the investigator must identify the subject, gather background information (names, addresses, car registration, friends names & addresses, hobbies etc), visit and map out the surveillance site, determine the best time and place for the job, check out equipment making sure it works, provide backup equipment and batteries and gather the essentials to carry while on the job.

In most cases, the investigator records the surveillance with digital photography, either still or video.  In every surveillance, the professional investigator will know and observe federal and state laws relating to a person’s privacy.  For example, in Virginia there is a law against stalking.  VA Code 18.2-60.3.

The stalking statue prohibits engaging a person and placing the person in reasonable fear of death, criminal sexual assault or bodily injury.  The law provides an exception for law enforcement officers and private investigators licensed in Virginia.  The knowledgeable Virginia private investigator knows that his or her surveillance will not violate the stalking statute. 

In addition, Virginia has a statute prohibiting the unlawful filming, videotaping or photographing of another person (VA Code 18.2-386.1).  One of the principles of the statute is to protect ones reasonable expectation of privacy.  Under this statute, it is unlawful to photograph someone, without their consent, if the person is in a dressing room, bathroom, bedroom, or some other location where one expects privacy. 

So, it appears that surveillance photos are within legal parameters as long as such photos or video do not violate a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy.

Thanks to Legal Andrew.com we have some references to more reading on a photographers right to take photos, see Bert Krages Article, an article by Bert Krages, Portland attorney, and his book Legal Handbook for Photographers.

In the meantime, keep taking snaps legally.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Information Insights Inc., McLean, VA

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