When it comes to private investigator work, the first question on many people’s minds is whether they can use a hidden camera in their investigation. A private investigator can use a hidden camera in their investigations as long as it’s legal to do so. The laws that surround hidden cameras vary between states and countries, but the recording of someone without their consent in a private area is usually illegal. Now, this is exactly where it becomes tricky because there are many circumstances where there are specific laws that allow the use of hidden cameras in a variety of situations. Whether or not this means you can use a hidden camera in your case will depend on the state you’re working in and how you intend to use the footage collected.
Knuckles v. Georgia (2020)
In the case of Knuckles v. Georgia, nurse Wanda Knuckles was caught on a hidden camera in a long-term care facility depriving 89-year-old patient James Dempsy of essential services. The denial of these services, unfortunately, resulted in the death of Mr. Dempsy. The hidden camera footage was later able to be used as evidence to charge Knuckles with depriving Mr. Dempsy of life-saving assistance as well as concealing his death.
According to Georgia law, a person cannot be recorded without their consent. Knowing this, Knuckles attempted to get the hidden camera footage thrown out since she had no prior knowledge of the hidden camera and did not consent. However, the Supreme Court of Georgia did not side with her argument because Mr. Dempsy’s room was his temporary residence and was being rented by the family for this purpose. This means that being it wasn’t her residence, Knuckles had no reasonable expectation of privacy while in Mr. Dempsy’s room. Georgia law provides exceptions to hidden camera laws stating that it is not unlawful for this recording because it was used to ensure the safety of Mr. Dempsy while in his temporary place of residence.
Private investigators and the use of hidden cameras
Generally speaking, if a private investigator places a hidden camera on public property where an individual does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, like say on a public sidewalk or street corner, it is legal because there is no expectation of privacy. However, this is not true for every state. It’s best for anyone wishing to use hidden cameras to contact a local attorney for advice about the legality of their actions before filming anything that could potentially get them in trouble with the law.
A private investigator’s use of hidden cameras is not illegal, but it must be done in the right way. If you’re in a place where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, then you have a right to that privacy and most private investigators are not allowed to violate it.
Most of the time when people run into trouble with hidden cameras, it’s because of a reasonable expectation of privacy. You cannot have a hidden camera in places like bathrooms, someone else’s vehicle, or in your own home if it’s being rented to someone else.
Sometimes the law changes depending on what state you live in, or even what county or city you live in. In some states, a hidden camera can be used, but if something private occurs, the recording must stop. In other cases, the camera can be used but the audio can not. Oftentimes investigators will sever the wires to the microphone to avoid accidentally recording audio. Sometimes the fact of recording the audio, even by accident, is a crime itself.
The use of hidden cameras by a private investigator is legal as long as the investigator follows all applicable state and federal laws. A private investigator needs to be familiar with the laws governing the covert recording of conversations, telephone calls, and other communications that are generally protected by the right to privacy. If you’re hiring an investigator to gather evidence using a hidden camera, make sure that their efforts are legal. If your investigator has unethical recording methods, you could be held liable too.