California Penal Code Section 647(i) PC: Peeking While Loitering

peeping tom law

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

Under California’s “Peeping Tom” laws, it is illegal to peek into a door or window on private property without the consent of the owner. This offense is commonly referred to as peeking while loitering and is a misdemeanor offense under California Penal Code Section 647(i) PC.

In order to prove the defendant committed the offense of peeking while loitering, a prosecutor must be able to establish the following elements:

  1. The defendant delayed, lingered, prowled or wandered on the private property of someone else
  2. When the defendant was on the property, he or she did not have a lawful purpose for being there
  3. AND when the defendant was on the property, he or she peeked in the door or window of an inhabited building or structure.

A building or structure is inhabited if someone uses it as a dwelling, whether or not someone is actually inside at the time the peeking occurred. A building or structure is not considered inhabited if the former residents have moved out and do not intend to return, even if some personal property remains inside.

2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Lewd ConductCalifornia Penal Code Section 647(a) PC
  2. Invasion of Privacy – California Penal Code Section 647(j) PC

3. Examples

A man becomes excited when a sorority moves into the vacant house next to his own. One night after drinking heavily, the man walks on to the sorority property and peers into a window in hopes of checking out the sorority sisters. The man was not aware that the house was vacant because the girls were on spring break. The man could still be charged with peeking while loitering in violation of California Penal Code Section 647(i) PC even though no one was actually in the house when he tried to peek in.

In another example, a process server approaches a home in order to serve divorce papers on the resident inside. He knocks on the door but no one answers. The process server is thorough so he peeks through the door’s keyhole and sees that the person he is looking for is inside, but is ignoring his knock. This man would not be criminally liable for peeking while loitering, because he was at the home with a lawful purpose.

4. Defenses to Peeking While Loitering

The peeking while loitering statute is very specific, and if all of the elements of the alleged crime are not present, a person would not be guilty of this offense. Thus if the defendant was not on private property, had a lawful purpose for being on the property, or did not peek into a building that was inhabited, he or she could not be charged with peeking while loitering. Additionally, if he or she did not peek in a window or door, there would be no criminal liability. Thus a man peeking over the hedges to watch his neighbor sunbathing in their yard would not be guilty of peeking while loitering.

5. Penalties

Peeking while loitering is a misdemeanor-level offense that is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 court-imposed fine. A defendant convicted of this offense would not be required to register as a sex offender pursuant to California Penal Code Section 290 PC. However, this type of offense would show up on criminal background checks and may limit future employment and housing options.

6. Criminal Defense for Peeking While Loitering Cases

Peeking while loitering is a criminal offense that may carry significant collateral consequences for those convicted. If you have been charged with this offense, it is very important that you speak with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney right away to discuss your case. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who is highly respected throughout the court system as a dedicated advocate who fights hard on behalf of his clients. Mr. Kraut understands and appreciates the stigma that charges like this may carry and can make all court appearances for his clients so they do not have to appear publicly in court.

For more information about peeking while loitering, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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