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Know Your Rights: Surveillance Laws

As a citizen of the United States, you should be aware of general surveillance laws as well as those relating directly to legal proceedings. Our country has a wide range of such laws in place in order to protect the privacy of its citizens while simultaneously keeping them safe.

If you work or do business in St. Charles, you may need to know your legal ability to place security cameras around your business or residence.

Basic laws allow the placement of video recording devices within the common areas of residential and commercial buildings, at main entrances and exits, and in any other public area. Apart from this kind of security device, you should check with a St. Charles lawyer to be sure you’re following the law — and to be sure no one is breaking the law by their surveillance of you.

Surveillance laws specific to the state of Missouri

  • Video surveillance is illegal in any place where a person has a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
  • Wiretapping, also known as intercepting any oral communication through an electronic device by a third party without consent, is strictly prohibited.
  • Exceptions to the law include law enforcement officers conducting an undercover investigation in an attempt to obtain evidence to a crime.

What this means is that unless you are involved in a criminal investigation, you cannot conduct your own surveillance activities even as an act of self-defense unless this occurs in a public place. It is your St. Charles lawyer’s job to conduct the investigation for you, and to protect you from any illegally acquired surveillance evidence that is used against you in a court of law.

Surveillance evidence

You may also need to know the laws regarding surveillance evidence. If you think you may face audio or video recordings in local court, a St. Charles lawyer can determine whether the surveillance evidence should be admissible in court.

It’s easier than ever to capture information on camera. We recently heard of a case where a small child’s father instructed the child to film messy areas of the mom’s house during a “Face Time” visit, planning to use the footage as evidence in a custody hearing. But this kind of secret filming isn’t necessarily acceptable as evidence.

Admissibility of evidence depends on a lot of factors — and they’re not all obvious from common sense. You should always get legal advice on complicated questions of this kind, and make sure that your information comes from a lawyer familiar with your local rules and regulations: a St. Charles lawyer.

For more information on surveillance laws pertaining to criminal investigations, contact your lawyer Bill Byrnes at the Byrnes Law Firm at (636) 896-4300 or through our online contact form.