October 8, 2009
USE OF SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS IN RESIDENTIAL AREAS
By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst
You asked for the discussion of the possible legal sanctions that might apply to the neighbor of a constituent who has installed surveillance cameras that cover the constituent's front door, deck, and backyard. There is a 22-foot high fence between the two properties. The Office of Legislative Research is not authorized to provide legal opinions and this report should not be viewed as one.
While there are several statutes that protect an individual's privacy, most do not appear to apply to this situation. The one statute that may apply is CGS § 53a-189a. Under this law, a person is guilty of voyeurism when he or she, with malice, knowingly photographs, films, videotapes, or otherwise records the image of another person (1) without that person's knowledge and consent, (2) while that person is not in plain view, and (3) under circumstances where that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. (The law also covers sexual voyeurism, which does not appear to apply in this situation.) The surveillance of the constituent's front door and deck does not appear to meet these criteria since these areas are most likely in plain view and the constituent would not have a reasonable expectation of privacy there. On the other hand, the surveillance of the constituent's back yard may meet these criteria if the other sides of the constituent's yard are fenced and the yard is not open to view, although the legislative history of this provision focused on filming people in their homes. Voyeurism is a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment for one to five years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Other statutes dealing with privacy do not appear to apply to this situation. Under CGS § 53a-182, a person is guilty of disorderly conduct if he or she commits simple trespass, and observes, in other than a casual or cursory manner, another person (1) without the knowledge or consent of that person, (2) while that person is inside a dwelling and not in plain view, and (3) under circumstances where that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. But for someone to commit simple trespass (CGS § 53a-110a) he or she must enter the other person's property, which does not appear to be the case in this situation. CGS § 31-48b prohibits an employer or his or her agent or representative from using an electronic surveillance device or system, such as a closed circuit television system, to record or monitor the activities of employees in areas designed for their health or personal comfort or for safeguarding of their possessions. This provision does not apply to surveillance in residential settings.
On the other hand, the constituent may have a cause of action against his neighbor (may be able to sue him) based on common law principles. In Goodrich v. Waterbury Republican American, Inc. (188 Conn. 107, 1982), the state Supreme Court recognized a right to privacy; “the right to be let alone.” In recognizing this cause of action, the Court cited the Oklahoma Supreme Court which found that this type of tort had evolved in most jurisdictions based on common law principles sometimes compared to trespass and that it was unnecessary for the legislature to enact a law to create this tort in abrogation of the common law. (Goodrich citing McCormack v. Oklahoma Publishing Co., 613 P. 2d 737, 740 (Okla. 1980)). The Connecticut Supreme Court, recognized four types of invasion of privacy, one of which (unreasonable intrusion upon the seclusion of another) may apply to your constituent. Under this tort.
One who intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon the seclusion of another or his private affairs or concerns, is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy, if the actions would be highly offensive to a reasonable man.
(Restatement (Second) of Torts Sec. 652B, cited in Venturi v. Savitz, 191 Conn. 588, 591 (1983))
Most of the case law that cites Goodrich deals with another form of invasion of privacy, publicity that unreasonably places another person in a false light before the public (a concept similar to libel). We have found no cases dealing with unreasonable intrusion upon the seclusion of others that deal with camera surveillance.