California makes use of a pair of “Peeping Tom” laws. California Penal Code Section 647(i): Peeking While Loitering is the primary law that covers this offense. However, many people guilty of a violation of 647(i) are also charged under California Penal Code Section 647(j): Invasion of Privacy.
These laws forbid individuals from peeking into other people’s homes or otherwise invading their privacy. Both of these acts are considered misdemeanors, and they can lead to serious legal penalties if an individual is convicted.
The California criminal defense lawyers at Simmrin Law Group can provide you with professional advice if you are facing accusations for peeking while loitering. You can contact us today to get immediate answers about your options for handling these charges.
Understanding PC 647(i): Peeking While Loitering
An individual must have met several requirements to be convicted under PC 647(i). In order to be found guilty of peeking while loitering, three conditions must be met:
- The defendant must have delayed, lingered, prowled, wandered, or trespassed on someone else’s private property.
- They must have done so without a lawful purpose for being there.
- They must have peeked into an inhabited building or structure on the property through a door or window.
Individuals can be charged with peeking while loitering even if no one is at home when they peek. Any building used as a residence can be considered an inhabited structure under PC 647(i).
Specific Intent Is Not Required for a Conviction
You can be arrested and convicted for a violation of Penal Code 647(i), even if you committed the offense without specific intent to do so. It does not matter what reason you had for peeking or at what point you decided to peek into the window or door of someone.
Even if you entered the property with no intent to commit any crime, you can still be found guilty under PC 647(i) if something prompts you to peek at any point.
Invasion of Privacy
Note that you may also face charges for invasion of privacy under California Penal Code 647(j) if you use tools like binoculars or telescopes to peek or photograph or record someone in private areas.
Invasion of privacy is also considered a misdemeanor in Los Angeles, and it carries serious legal repercussions. Penalties for invasion of privacy can include:
- Up to six months in jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Summary probation
These penalties can double if it is not the first offense or if the victim of the invasion of privacy is a minor.
Examples of Possible Penal Code 647(i) Violations
A man sneaks onto his neighbor’s property at night to take pictures of his neighbor in her bedroom. The man could face charges under PC 647(i) as well as charges for a violation of PC 647(j).
A man is delivering a package and knocks on the door, then glances through the window and sees the occupants engaged in sex. He looks away and waits for them to get dressed and answer the door. The man should not face charges under PC 647(i) because he was not loitering but rather carrying out his employment duties.
A man suspects his girlfriend of cheating. He goes over to her house after she doesn’t answer his phone calls and starts looking through the windows. The man could face charges of peeking while loitering under PC 647(i).
Peeking While Loitering and Criminal Penalties
PC 647(i) is considered a criminal misdemeanor offense. Individuals convicted of peeking while loitering can be fined up to $1,000. A peeking while loitering conviction can also lead to 6 months of jail time.
Depending on your situation, you may be offered misdemeanor probation in place of a jail sentence. Individuals placed on misdemeanor probation may be subject to a set of conditions, including:
- Pay restitution to victims
- Staying away from victims
- Report progress to the court
These penalties are often considered part of the conditions governing probation. The court has the right to revoke probation if these conditions are not adhered to properly.
Does a Conviction Require Registration as a Sex Offender?
You will not have to register as a sex offender if you are convicted of peeking while loitering. However, the conviction will still appear on your record, which can make it difficult to secure certain jobs and housing.
While a defendant will not have to register as a sex offender for a conviction under Penal Code 647(i), they could find themselves facing this penalty if they are convicted of other charges in relation to this offense.
For instance, if a defendant was looking into the window of a victim as they got undressed and then exposed themselves to the victim as well, they could be charged with indecent exposure and be subject to mandatory registration as a sex offender.
As mentioned, many people arrested for a violation of PC 647(i) also receive a charge under California Penal Code Section 647(j): Invasion of Privacy. In addition, there are some other charges that offenders are likely to find themselves up against. These include:
- California Penal Code Section 602: Trespassing
- California Penal Code Section 646.9: Stalking
- Title 18 United States Code Section 1801: Video Voyeurism
Who Qualifies for Misdemeanor Probation
When considering misdemeanor probation instead of jail time, a judge will look at the specific circumstances of the offense, as well as the defendant’s criminal history. A defendant will be disqualified from receiving probation if any of the following apply:
- The defendant has two or more prior felony convictions
- The defendant has a prior felony conviction for an offense in which they were armed
- The defendant has a prior conviction for a serious felony like rape, kidnapping, or murder
Possible Defenses Against Peeking While Loitering Charges
Individuals accused of peeking while loitering will have the best chance of beating their charges if they contact a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer immediately. There are several possible defenses that could be used in a peeking while loitering case, depending on the specifics of the situation. Some of the most common defenses are:
- You weren’t loitering.
- You had a valid reason to be on the property.
- You weren’t on private property.
- You didn’t look into a building.
- The building you looked into was not inhabited.
You Weren’t Loitering
Standing around idly on someone else’s property qualifies as loitering. Individuals passing across someone’s property on their way to another destination are not loitering. If you are falsely accused of loitering, you may not be convicted under PC 647(i).
You Had a Valid Reason to Be on the Property
PC 647(i) allows people to bring criminal charges against you if you enter their property for no lawful reason. Your lawyer could argue that you had a purpose for entering the property. This defense can commonly be used for people entering a property for work purposes such as delivery or maintenance professionals.
You Weren’t on Private Property
There are instances where someone is accused of peeking while loitering without entering private property. If you looked in someone’s window while standing on a public sidewalk, you are not guilty of peeking while loitering. You should not be convicted under PC 647(i) if this is the case.
You Didn’t Look Into a Building
If you were loitering on private property but never actually looked into the building, you are not guilty under California PC Section 647(i).
The Building You Looked Into Was Not Inhabited
Individuals must be currently living in a structure for it to be considered inhabited. If you peeked into an uninhabited building, you should not face a peeking while loitering conviction.
Your criminal defense lawyer may be able to help you handle plea bargains offered by the prosecution after a peeking while loitering charge. You could also get the help you need with courtroom arguments by contacting the Simmrin Law Group immediately.
Get Help Dealing With Peeking While Loitering Charges
You can end up in serious legal trouble if you are charged under California Penal Code Section 647(i): Peeking While Loitering. Individuals who get professional help right away will have the best chances of beating this criminal charge. You can reach out to Simmrin Law Group to get legal advice about your situation.
Complete our online contact form or give us a call to learn more about how we can help. You can reach out to us right now for a free consultation regarding your legal options for handling a peeking while loitering charge.