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    Invasion of Privacy Laws...

    Jurisdiction / State: Wisconsin

    I'd like to know what types of laws exist in the State of Wisconsin around Invasion of Privacy. We've had ongoing issues with a neighbor video taping both our backyard, front yard, and peeping into our Windows through the use of Video Cameras. We can't even utilize our backyard, we have a 6 foot privacy fence and all of the cameras are placed on the second story of their house and they have clear shot into everything we do. It's come to point with all the harassment (yes there's more than just the cameras) we feel as if we're being stalked. My family has obtained a restraining order but the order is just a piece of paper and seems to be worthless. Any help or insight regarding privacy laws, stalking, or harassment would be extremely helpful.


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    You would be wise to report this matter to your local constabulary.

    It wouldn't hurt to meet with your local prosecutor or district attorney.

    As you've discovered, orders of protection do little to thwart certain individuals.

    That is why you might wish to investigate going the route of the criminal justice system.

    You can also keep your windows covered and closed.

    Privacy fences also work.

    Sometimes, all you can do is move.

    I'm not sure what you want to know about Wisconsin privacy laws, but if you Google the term; much should be revealed to you.

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    I suspect that if the cameras are mounted where the residents of the neighboring property could otherwise see, then what they are doing is legal. You're not implying that they do not have a lawful right to look out their window, are you?

    Does the restraining order prohibit them from taping you? Does it prohibit them from looking at you? I suspect it prohibits them from contacting you, annoying, or harassing you (through overt actions) thus the presence of cameras is not likely a violation of the order.

    Are they re-broadcasting their video to embarrass you?

    Now, if they are coming on to your property and poking cameras through your windows - and you can prove this - then I'd say you have a case for at least trespassing.

    Have you considered mounting your own cameras to catch them in the act of entering your property? How about mounting humorous signs facing their house that have witty slogans or sayings? Perhaps waving at the cameras and smiling?

    People get bored when others stop getting excited. If they stop getting a rise out of you, then there will be no need for the cameras or whatever harassment they might be involved in. I find that ignoring problem people is far more effective than trying to fight them. In other words, do not react in the way they expect you to.
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    As long as they are not re-broadcasting whatever they catch in your backyard, why do you care? It's a little creepy but are you walking around naked in your back yard?

    As for video through your windows, I have one word for you: Curtains.

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    You're correct the cameras are mounted to where they could see our property from the window over the 6 FT Privacy Fence, which is often times a test by the courts as to whether it's legal however a normal person is not going to stand at a window 24x7. The other factor is that the neighbor is using the video as a tool to harass us. They spin through the video tape and then look for someone to be in the doorway (ie: letting the dog out, having small warming fires) and then call the cops telling them "they hear loud bangs againt the side of their house". Or they call the cops/fire dept when we have small warming fires saying we burning things illegally or the smoke is bothering them (they purposely open 1 window on the side of the house every time we have a small fires with our family to roast marshmallows and relax in the evenings). The cops come out view the tape, no one is ever seen throwing anything or doing anything wrong and we go through the same motions everytime, which is extremely frustrating because no one in our family is doing anything of the sort. Or Investigate the fires and find nothing illegal, the fire department is also fed up with the situation and told them to stop so now they call the police about the small fires. Or other bogus reports...it's just out of hand bottom line.

    The restraining order does not prohibit them from taping our property, our family, or children as they are swimming in our pool or utilizing our back yard. Recently this year we tore down our pool in order to relocate our fire pit to the other side of our property and now have to rebuild a custom deck because we "thought" it would help alleviate some of the problems but it's only frustrated them worse.

    As for the cameras...they are not physically stepping onto our property and pushing the cameras through the windows they do this from a distance peeping through the windows. Last year, we covered all of our windows on the East Side of hour house with Cardboard to prevent them from looking in our son's bedroom and other windows on that side of the house. That's the part that is extremely unsettling is the fact that we have no idea what their doing with the video tape but do have alot of police reports where the officer is describing the inside our of home based on the positioning of the cameras.

    Originally we thought they would get bored as well and go away but this has gone on for over 4 years now. Seems like no matter what we do ... it doesn't make a difference. We're at the point that we are in the process of selling of home and letting someone else deal with the nightmare because we've had our fill.

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    I think you have a case of stalking according to WI law:


    In Wisconsin, stalking acts include but are not limited to:

    Maintaining a visual or physical proximity to the victim.

    Approaching or confronting the victim.

    Appearing at the victim’s workplace or contacting coworkers or employers of the victim.

    Appearing at the victim’s home or contacting the victim’s neighbors.

    Entering property owned, leased, or occupied by the victim.

    Contacting the victim by telephone repeatedly or continuously causing the victim’s (or another’s)
    telephone to ring, whether or not a conversation ensues.

    Photographing, videotaping, audiotaping, or, by other electronic means, monitoring/recording the
    victim’s activities, regardless of where the monitoring takes place.


    Sending material by any means to the victim or to the victim’s family, member of the victim’s household,
    employer, coworker, or friend in order to obtain information about, disseminate information about, or
    communicate with the victim.

    Placing an object on or delivering an object to property owned, leased, or occupied by the victim.

    Delivering objects to certain others with the intent of delivery to the victim or placing objects on
    property owned, leased, or occupied by certain others with intent that it be delivered to the victim.

    Causing a person to engage in any of the acts described in subds. 1. to 9.
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    And here's a link to the .pdf:

    http://www.doj.state.wi.us/cvs/stalking/wcadvdoc.pdf

    You can probably find the statutes online if you google.

    Actually, you can find the statutes concerning stalking, harassment, and invasion of privacy here:

    http://www.ncvc.org/SRC/main.aspx?dbID=DB_Wisconsin137

    I think you should be able to get a restraining order against the videotaping since it's been documented by the police. Also, since there's already an order, IMO you have a better case for stalking.
    Last edited by irish223; 04-18-2010 at 01:54 PM. Reason: add
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    However, if the cameras are mounted on all sides of the house and are ostensibly for home security, the stalking issue becomes difficult if not impossible to prove.

    Note the additional requirement to make a stalking case:

    The actor intentionally engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person under the same circumstances to suffer serious emotional distress or to fear bodily injury to or the death of himself or herself or a member of his or her family or household
    It takes more than just taping to constitute stalking as there are a host of other elements that must be shown to constitute this.

    If the OP feels this is stalking, he or she can contact the local police and make a report. I strongly suspect it does not quite rise to that level unless there are other actions besides simply having cameras mounted, but laws vary by state so who knows?
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    You're probably right; however, I think cameras that are mounted in such a way that the inside of the neighbor's house is visible might rise to that standard when combined with the many calls to police and fire depts.

    do have alot of police reports where the officer is describing the inside our of home based on the positioning of the cameras.
    Or maybe it would fit the criteria for harassment. I would try to file a report.
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  10. #10
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    The problem that will come from this is that the state would have to prove that the calls to the police or fire department were false and with the intent to annoy, harass, or vex the victim (neighbor). This can be a high burden to meet. If the neighbors with the cameras have what they believe to be a legitimate complaint, then their calls - even if they amount to nothing - are going to be legal. We respond to many calls that do not rise to the level of a crime, but neither are they unlawful to make.

    It is difficult if not impossible to make a criminal case for cameras mounted where people can just as easily watch. If they were mounted on extended poles above the level of the windows or some such thing, the case would be stronger.

    Frankly, unless the neighbors are using the footage to otherwise harass the OP, I think the police are going to run away from this screaming. The OP's most likely avenue might be to identify a civil tort to pursue ... though, without actual damages, the best they might hope for is the removal or re-positioning of the cameras.

    I have two homes in my city that have both parties playing this very game ... it is an annoying game. The VIDEO is not where they are going to get in trouble - it is the audio that is going to get one of the two parties in trouble should they push the issue too much. We go out once every couple of weeks or so for the regular he said, she said discussion and I pop Excedrin afterwards. Neither party is overly pleased with our response because no one goes to jail, but we are about at the point that we will start identifying even minor offenses and taking everyone to jail if we can to just force the issue to a close if we can.

    The OP can call the police and try to make a stalking case out of it, but I strongly suspect the police are not going to want to tread across that rickety bridge. if they do, it will be to take the information and pass it along to the DA and let HIM (or her) decide the issue.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by CdwJava View Post
    and I pop Excedrin afterwards.
    That's got to be frustrating, for sure, and although it's not funny, it did make me giggle.
    I'm not a lawyer

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    That's the interesting part...you mentioned "if the cameras are mounted on all sides of the house and are ostensibly for home security, the stalking issue becomes difficult if not impossible to prove"

    Problem is the "Security cameras" are ONLY on our side of the house...the other 3 sides of the house have no cameras nor are they doing any sort of monitoring.

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    Quote Originally Posted by _SeekingHelp View Post
    That's the interesting part...you mentioned "if the cameras are mounted on all sides of the house and are ostensibly for home security, the stalking issue becomes difficult if not impossible to prove"

    Problem is the "Security cameras" are ONLY on our side of the house...the other 3 sides of the house have no cameras nor are they doing any sort of monitoring.
    By itself, all that shows is that they have a concern for activity on that side of the house. It removes the generic security argument, but if they have an articulable concern for activity on that side of the house - whether reasonable or not to you and me - it is still not likely to rise to the level of criminal activity.

    It is a conundrum and all you can do is report it to the police, and maybe consult an attorney to see if there are any civil remedies available to you.
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    We are consulting our attorney tomorrow and meeting with the District Attorney regarding the matters. I appreciate everyone's feedback. Thank you!

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