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COA finds voyeurism statute not vague

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The state’s voyeurism statute is not unconstitutionally vague, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded today by rejecting a man’s claims that the statute would prevent taping a surprise birthday party.

Indiana Code Section 35-45-4-5 says a person who peeps in an occupied dwelling of another person or who peeps into an area where the occupant of the area reasonably can be expected to disrobe, including restrooms, without their consent commits voyeurism. It becomes a Class D felony if the act is videotaped and the peeper has a prior unrelated conviction. Peep is defined by “any looking of a clandestine, surreptitious, prying, or secretive nature.”

Sean Chiszar challenged his convictions of Class D felony voyeurism by arguing the language of I. C. Section 35-45-4-5 would make it a criminal offense for a husband to peep into the living room and see his wife undressing. He also argued you couldn’t videotape a surprise birthday party or abusive nannies under the state’s interpretation of the statute that a person could never film another in their home unless that person knew of the filming and consented.

Police were called to Chiszar’s home after he and his girlfriend got into a fight after she woke up to discover Chiszar trying to have sex with her while videotaping it. He had videotaped his ex-wife without her consent.

The appellate court rejected his claims in Sean H. Chiszar v. State of Indiana, No. 91A04-1004-CR-290. It’s not commonplace for people to undress in their living rooms or kitchens, wrote Judge Edward Najam. Also, the crux of the statute is consent, and most of the time, spouses would have no problem seeing the other disrobe. That’s not to say peeping can’t occur in a marriage or relationship, he added.

The issue is the “looking” and as defined by the statute, there’s no reasonable purpose for that kind of looking unless it is without the other’s person’s knowledge and consent, Judge Najam wrote.

Videotaping a surprise birthday party isn’t prohibited by the statute because unless the person filming is hiding the camera and surreptitiously filming the event, there is no peeping.

The judges also found the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in admitting evidence obtained during a warrantless search, that a subsequent search warrant was supported by sufficient evidence, and that the state presented sufficient evidence to support his convictions of voyeurism and battery. Chiszar’s convictions of Class D felony possession of child pornography, and Class A misdemeanors possession of paraphernalia and marijuana were also affirmed.
 

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