Ambrosio E. Rodriguez

LOS ANGELES CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY
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Are Hidden Nanny Cams Legal in California?

Maybe you’ve decided that it’s finally time for a night out without the kids. Someone will have to watch them. Or, perhaps you’re going away on vacation. Someone will have to take care of the dog and water the plants. Either way, someone is going to have to come into your house while you’re not home. That person will be entrusted to take care of your home and the things you care about most.

You worry that something will happen while you’re not there to keep things in order. So, you think about setting up a nanny cam or Nest so that you can keep an eye on things from afar. Is that something you can do, or would that violate the law? Can you get in trouble for setting up a hidden nanny cam?

Here’s what you need to know.

Nanny Cams Are Generally Legal In Your Own Home

It’s legal to install a nanny cam in your California home. In fact, it’s legal in all 50 states. You generally have the right to know what’s going on in your own home, even if you’re not physically present.

For good reason. It can be scary to leave your kids or pets alone with a stranger. Sometimes you just don’t have a friend or family member who can help out. That’s the reality for about 14 percent of Americans. According to the Department of Justice, one out of every 5 kids under the age of 5 are cared for by a non-relative.

Statistics reveal that babysitters commit about 4 percent of crimes against young children. While that’s a relatively low number, the severity of those crimes makes up for it. Sexual and physical assaults are problematic.

It’s no surprise that you’d want to keep an eye on things. Thankfully, you can.

However, depending on where you live, there might be limits as to what you can record, and where.

Limits on Hidden Nanny Cams That Record Sound

Cameras can do a lot. In addition to recording video footage, many can also record sound. Some states – including California – have limits on what you can legally do with those devices.

In California, if you have a nanny cam that records images/video and sound, you have to disclose that to your babysitter. That’s because California is a two-party state. You can do that verbally or in writing. It’s best to do it in writing so that you have proof you complied with the law.

Other states with similar laws include:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania, and
  • Washington.

What happens if you don’t disclose that there’s a  nanny cam capturing images and sound? Any evidence of a crime or abuse might not be admissible in court if you press charges or file a lawsuit.

Nanny Cams and Privacy Concerns

Even though all 50 states permit the use of private security cameras in your own home, some states – including California – limit where those devices can be placed. These laws focus on areas of a home that would generally be considered private – such as a bathroom. If you have a live-in babysitter or caretaker, their personal room/living quarters would be off-limits in these states, too. There’s an expectation of privacy that must be respected.

Other states that prohibit hidden nanny cams in private places include:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • South Dakota, and
  • Utah.

Placing a hidden recording device – regardless of what it captures – can have serious consequences. You could potentially be charged with a crime and even be named as a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit.

Consider That Your Camera Could Be Hacked

There are two types of nanny cams. One uses WIFI to stream content to a handheld device. The other relies on a closed-circuit system and transmits content to a paired monitor. WIFI nanny cams and security devices are increasingly popular, thanks to the fact that you can stream the images and audio right to an app on your phone, regardless of where you are. You don’t have that luxury with a more traditional device.

However, WIFI nanny cams are susceptible to hacking. Safety experts warn that “anyone who is concerned about the privacy, security and safety of their family should be concerned about the risk of their cams getting hacked, because this risk is quite high.” You might want to keep an eye on your kids. If your system gets hacked, others might keep an eye on them, too.

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