‘Video voyeurism’ bill clears Arkansas Legislature

Friday, March 12, 1999

The Arkansas Senate passed a bill earlier this week that creates the new crime classification of “video voyeurism” — defined as the “use of any camera or “any other image recording device” to secretly invade a person's reasonable expectation of privacy in a “private area out of public view.”

The measure prohibits anyone from “secretly observing, viewing, photographing, filming, or video taping a person present in a residence, place of business, school, or other structure, or any room or particular location within that structure, where that person in a private area out of public view, has a reasonable expectation of privacy and has not consented to the observation.”

A violation of the bill would constitute a felony punishable by up to six years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

The bill notes six exemptions, including:

  • Court-ordered monitoring.
  • “Security monitoring” by homeowners.
  • “Security monitoring” by business owners.
  • “Security monitoring” in public transit vehicles.
  • “Security monitoring” in correctional facilities.
  • Video recording or monitoring by law enforcement officers.

Introduced on Feb. 16, the measure passed the House on Feb. 26 and the Senate on March 10. It now heads to the governor for signing.

Press advocates do not support the measure, but neither do they express strong opposition to it. Dennis Schick, executive director for the Arkansas Press Association, says that his organization, while not supportive, will not challenge the bill.

“I oppose any potential hurdle to newsgathering,” Schick said. “However, we have not been able to garner strong opposition to the bill.”

“We see potential problems but have not been able to come up with many concrete examples of how this bill would actually affect newsgathering,” he said.

Jane Kirtley, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, expressed similar sentiments. “While I do not support this bill, I find it less troublesome than some other proposals,” she said.

She pointed out that a similar bill in the Louisiana legislature fails to include the language, “where that person is in a private area out of public view,” an omission which she describes as making a “significant difference.”

Kirtley said that such language, combined with the reasonable-expectation-of-privacy and lack-of-consent provisions in the Arkansas bill, essentially codifies common-law privacy.