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Interference with Privacy in Minnesota

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Interference with privacy is a gross misdemeanor offense that can rise to felony level charges depending on the circumstances. The general concept of what interference with privacy means may make sense. But the statutory definitions are complex in trying to capture the acts that amount to interference with privacy.

Minn. Stat. 609.746 lays out the crime by listing four separate ways a person can violate this statute. While they all have a common element, each are different in important ways. Let’s start with the common element to all four acts: the defendant did the act with the “intent to intrude upon or interfere with the privacy” of another.

Next, the first two acts have three elements: (1) the entry element; (2) the gazing or recording element; and (3) the intent element. Here they are, as written in the statute:

  1. entering upon another’s property;
  2. surreptitiously gazing, staring, or peeping in the window or any other aperture of a house or place of dwelling of another; and
  3. doing so with intent to intrude upon or interfere with the privacy of a member of the household

And:

  1. entering upon another’s property;
  2. surreptitiously installing or using any device for observing, photographing, recording, amplifying, or broadcasting sounds or events through the window or any other aperture of a house or place of dwelling of another; and
  3. doing so with intent to intrude upon or interfere with the privacy of a member of the household

The first one involves gazing or staring and the second one involves using a recording device. Otherwise, the two acts are the same. And the intent element only modifies the gazing/recording element. This means that the State only needs to prove that the defendant intended to surreptitiously gaze or record. It does not require the State prove that the defendant entered the property with the intent to commit the act.

The final two acts that amount to interference with privacy are similar, but lack the entry element:

  1. surreptitiously gazing, staring, or peeping in the window or other aperture of a sleeping room in a hotel, a tanning booth, or other place where a reasonable person would have an expectation of privacy and has exposed or is likely to expose their intimate parts, or the clothing covering the immediate area of the intimate parts; and
  2. doing so with intent to intrude upon or interfere with the privacy of the occupant.

And:

  1. surreptitiously installing or using any device for observing, photographing, recording, amplifying, or broadcasting sounds or events through the window or other aperture of a sleeping room in a hotel, a tanning booth, or other place where a reasonable person would have an expectation of privacy and has exposed or is likely to expose their intimate parts, or the clothing covering the immediate area of the intimate parts; and
  2. doing so with intent to intrude upon or interfere with the privacy of the occupant.

What is deemed an expectation of privacy may be debatable. Courts have laid out the following guide to this question: To have a protected privacy interest, an individual must have a subjective expectation of privacy and the subjective expectation must be reasonable, i.e., one that is recognized by society. There is no marital exception to this expectation of privacy.

Any person that commits the crime of interference with privacy in Minnesota is facing a minimal of a gross misdemeanor offense. But, it becomes a felony if either (1) the defendant has a prior conviction for this offense or (2) the victim is under the age of 18 and the defendant knew or had reason to know that the minor was present. If it’s a felony offense, it is the lowest severity-level for felony offenses and starts as a presumed probationary outcome, meaning there is no prison sentence, but certainly the possibility of jail exists. Important to note that this is not an offense that implicates the sexual predatory registration requirements.

On top of these criminal consequences, a conviction for interference with privacy in Minnesota also has long-lasting collateral consequences in that it likely impacts future job or housing searches. It is important to find an interference with privacy attorney to help fight these charges – challenge the State’s case and whether it can satisfy this complex definitions and, at the same time, negotiate for an outcome that limits the criminal liability and fights for a record that is less debilitating.



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