BY Susan M. Brazas for Lawyers.com
The news headlines were buzzing: A female reporter had been secretly videotaped in the nude, and the videos posted on the internet. The suspect was an insurance company executive from the Chicago area. He was accused of cutting viewing holes through hotel room doors with a hacksaw, and using a cell phone camera to photograph her inside her hotel room.
Stalking Is a Crime
The suspect in this scenario was charged with stalking. He apparently asked for a hotel room next to the stalking victim at hotels in Tennessee and Milwaukee then videotaped her with his cell phone camera through the peephole. He then tried selling the videos to a celebrity gossip site. They were also uploaded the videos to the internet.
Because the offenses believed to occur throughout many states, charges were brought by the US Attorney's Office in Los Angeles with violations of federal laws prohibiting interstate stalking. Federal courts have jurisdiction or authority over matters which involve federal laws, interstate commerce and disputes between residents of different states.
The definition of "stalking" varies by state. Local law enforcement authorities and prosecutors interpret these laws according to prior cases and common practice. An attorney licensed in the state where the stalking occurred can give advice about specific laws.
Stalking Victims Seek a Protection Order
Stalking victims generally have various legal protections. First, if the stalking involves conduct as extreme as that described above, the following steps can be taken to protect yourself:
- Contact the police so that an investigation can begin immediately; and
- File a protection order if you know the stalker's identity
An initial hearing requesting a temporary order of protection can often take place without notice to the person. If the judge grants the request, a sheriff's deputy or private investigator will then serve the suspected stalker with a copy of the court's order.
The order prohibits any contact with you and set the date for a hearing to request a long-term order of protection. An attorney should represent you at such hearings so important evidence will be presented in the proper way.
Prevent Improper Cell Phone Use
Many people have their own cell phones with camera features, including young children and teenagers. However, use of the camera feature should be strictly supervised. They should never be used to photograph people without their consent. It's especially important for parents to warn their children of the importance of safeguarding the privacy of themselves and others by not misusing the cell phone camera.
Law enforcement authorities in many areas have been vigilant about cracking down on people who misuse cell phone cameras and videotaping devices for taking and disseminating nude photos. Especially photos of people under 18 years old. It's important to explain the risks and consequences of such conduct to teens, who otherwise may find themselves in juvenile court.
You, as a parent, could be a defendant in a civil suit if it's claimed that you inadequately supervised your children and knowingly allowed such conduct. Seek the advice of an attorney for an understanding of the consequences and remedies if you or your family have been photographed, or have taken photographs, in this way.
Many stalkers are harmless, but celebrities know that it can lead to extreme situations. Don't let the situation get out of control before taking action.
Questions for Your Attorney
- I've been getting phone calls and the caller hangs up as soon as I answer. The number is unlisted, and no one answers when I try *69. Is there anything I can do to make the calls stop?
- A former friend put embarrassing pictures of me up on Facebook. Can I contact Facebook to take them down?
- A long time ago, I posed for some glamour shots but never signed a release for them to be used except for my own and promotional purposes. They're now on the internet. What's the next step?