Can my spouse be found to have committed domestic violence if he uses a hidden camera to spy on me in the marital home without my knowledge?
Yes, a spouse can be found to have committed an act of domestic violence for recording the other spouse in the marital home without the other spouse’s knowledge. To find that someone has committed domestic violence, the victim must prove that the perpetrator committed at least one “predicate act” of domestic violence. The predicate offenses outlined in the domestic violence act are as follows: (1) Homicide; (2) Assault; (3) Terroristic Threats; (4) Kidnapping; (5) Criminal Restraint; (6) False Imprisonment; (7) Sexual Assault; (8) Criminal Sexual Contact; (9) Lewdness; (10) Criminal Mischief; (11) Burglary; (12) Criminal Trespass; (13) Harassment; and (14) Stalking. The Supreme Court of New Jersey found that one spouse can be found to have committed an act of domestic violence by recording the other spouse without his or her knowledge under the predicate offenses of Harassment and Stalking.
NJSA 2C:33-4(c) provides that a person is guilty of harassment where that person, with the intent to harass another, engages in a course of alarming conduct or has repeatedly committed acts with the purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such other person. The supreme court found that where the Husband knew who his wife was speaking to on the phone, where husband had stolen checks and important papers from the bedroom where he secretly recorded his wife hiding such papers and documents, and where the wife testified that her husband’s conduct made her feel as though he knew her every move and her every step, such behavior was sufficient to find that husband had committed the predicate offense of harassment. The supreme court also found that the parties’ past history helps the Court determine the defendant’s purpose, motive, and intended use of information obtained through the video and audio surveillance of his wife’s private acts and conversations in her bedroom. In other words, if the defendant uses the information obtained from his recordings for a purpose other than to just observe her, the defendant may be found to have committed the predicate act of harassment under the domestic violence act.
Further, a defendant may be found to have committed the predicate act of stalking if the following elements are satisfied under NJSA 2C:12-10 follows: (1) defendant engaged in speech or conduct that was directed at or toward a person; (2) the speech or conduct occurred on at least two occasions; (3) defendant purposefully engaged in speech or a course of conduct that is capable of causing a reasonable person to fear for herself or her immediate family bodily injury or death, and (4) defendant knowingly, recklessly or negligently caused a reasonable fear of bodily injury or death. The Supreme Court found that where the defendant listened to his wife’s private conversations, followed her, appeared in places where his wife was because of the knowledge obtained through the video and audio surveillance, and after threatening to kill her if she did not drop her divorce action, such conduct could cause a reasonable person to fear bodily injury to herself and therefore found that the trial court appropriately found that the defendant committed the predicate act of stalking.
In summary, if one spouse video or audio records the other spouse without the other spouse’s knowledge in the marital home, that spouse could be found to have committed the predicate acts of harassment or stalking, depending on the facts of each case. However, to find that a defendant committed stalking or harassment based on, in part, recording the other spouse without his or her knowledge, each must be determined on the specific facts of each case and based on the totality of the circumstances and viewed in the context of the parties’ history.
If you or someone you know has a question about his or her rights as they relate to domestic violence, then please call the skilled attorneys at Lyons & Associates. The attorneys at Lyons & Associates have substantial expertise in such matters as this office exclusively focuses its practice on family law and family law related issues. For a private consultation, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-575-9777.
Written by: Mark T. Gabriel, Esq.