Nevada hidden-camera bill dies in Senate committee

Tuesday, April 13, 1999

A Nevada Senate bill prohibiting the use of hidden cameras except under limited circumstances recently died in committee.

“The bill is dead and buried,” Kent Lauer, executive director of the Nevada Press Association, said. The measure died in the Senate Judiciary Committee because no action was taken on the bill by the April 9 deadline.

Senate Bill 34, introduced by Sen. Bernice Mathews on Jan. 26, would have made it “unlawful for a person knowingly to photograph, videotape or otherwise film another person using a device that is purposely concealed from the view of the person being photographed, videotaped or otherwise filmed.”

Violators of the bill would have faced a misdemeanor conviction and a $500 fine.

The proposal allowed for limited use of hidden cameras, including when the person being photographed or videotaped consented or when the filming was “used exclusively” for law enforcement or security purposes.

The judiciary committee held a hearing on the bill on Feb. 8 and referred it to a subcommittee. The subcommittee debated the measure on March 5 but took no action.

Press advocates praised the bill's demise. Lauer, who testified against the bill, said: “The bill was overly broad. It could have conceivably been applied against a press photographer who used a telephoto lens from the press box at a football game. Under this bill, a press photographer would have to obtain permission from every person on the field.”

Paul McMasters, The Freedom Forum's First Amendment ombudsman, also applauded the bill's failure. “This is an excellent example of how press advocates can do a lot of good not just for the press but for the public in general by explaining to political leaders the ramifications of this sort of lawmaking,” he said.

“This bill purports to do something for the public (protecting privacy) but instead it leaves them ignorant of criminal or corrupt activity that can only be captured by hidden cameras,” McMasters said.

“It always troubles me when lawmakers put themselves in the position of restricting freedom, rather than promoting freedom,” he said. “Restrictions on the press always wind up as restrictions on the people.”

A call placed to Mathews was not returned.