I’ve Been Charged With Unlawful Surveillance – How Serious Is This?

I’ve Been Charged With Unlawful Surveillance – How Serious Is This?

So you have been arrested for Unlawful Surveillance in New York City.  You have appeared before a judge, and, because it was your first contact with the justice system, the judge agreed to release you on your own recognizance.  You think to yourself: How serious can this be? After all, you have never been in trouble before and the crime you are accused of does not involve any violence.  

And then you go on the internet and you google:  Unlawful Surveillance in New York City. And you realize your pending case is much more serious than you thought – and, as an attorney practicing for over 25 years in New York, I can tell you that you are right.  

Unlawful Surveillance is a very serious crime and if not handled properly, it can land you in prison, can leave you with a permanent felony criminal record, and it can require you to register as a sex offender.  

In New York, this crime is considered a Class “E” felony.  This means that the maximum possible penalty is a four-year state prison sentence.  

If you’ve been arrested for unlawful surveillance, the first thing you need to do is contact a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in handling this type of matter.  Unlike other sex offenses, unlawful surveillance is a relatively new issue that is producing more criminal arrests than ever before. While an attorney may be well-versed in other sex offense matters, it is important that a case for unlawful surveillance is correctly handled from its inception, by an attorney experienced with handling this specific crime.

There are, in fact, defenses to this crime.  First, you and your attorney need to ascertain what the specific evidence is that the prosecutor has against you.  For instance, is this simply someone saying that they saw you hold a phone in an unusual way that made the person think you were illegally filming them?  Or is there witness testimony, coupled with the recovery of your phone, that shows you have been filming individuals surreptitiously? Perhaps a roommate found a recording device hidden somewhere in your apartment – is there evidence that you placed it there?  These questions are incredibly important in helping you and your attorney determine your plan of action. If there is little evidence, your attorney may be able to convince the DA to drop the case completely.

Next, keep in mind, that to prove the crime of Unlawful Surveillance, the prosecutor must prove a specific motive for the act itself, meaning that the purpose of the act must be shown to be for the perpetrator’s own amusement, entertainment, to degrade the person being filmed, or for his (or her) own sexual arousal.  Filming someone without those motives does not rise to the level of this particular crime, which is something you and your attorney can explore to strengthen your defense.

Unfortunately, there are times where the evidence is overwhelming as to your guilt.  When that happens, you and your attorney are going to need a plan of action to try to save your future.  This may include enrolling you in a program or some form of individual therapy to address why you committed the act you did.  It can also include, to many defendants’ surprise, admitting to the crime in a private meeting with the prosecutor and your attorney.  

For example, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office handles these types of cases somewhat differently than other jurisdictions.  In many cases, where the evidence of guilt is overwhelming, the prosecutor, along with his or her supervisor, will often ask if you and your attorney are interested in coming in for a meeting to discuss the facts of the case.  Sometimes, this meeting may involve the accused taking responsibility for the crime, and, if truthful and working to fix the problem, the prosecutor will give you a break – remember, a break does not mean the charges will be dismissed, but rather that you may actually walk away without a felony conviction.  

Keep in mind that not all individuals charged with this type of crime should meet with the prosecutor, even if the evidence is overwhelming.  The prosecutor in these meetings is looking for you to be completely truthful about the events leading up to and surrounding the crime. If you are not ready to be honest, it’s best not to go in, because it is very likely that you will not be given a second chance.  Further, not only will you lose the opportunity given to you, but you will make it much more difficult for your attorney to negotiate a favorable disposition going forward.

The Law Offices of Julie Rendelman, LLC regularly handles unlawful surveillance matters, in Manhattan and the surrounding jurisdictions, and can walk you through a strategy most effective for your defense.  If you or a loved one have been arrested for this crime, contact the office for a consultation today.