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California’s “Peeping Tom” Laws – PC 647(i) & PC 647(j)

Are You Accused of Violating California Peeping Tom Laws?

Under California Penal Code 647(i), it is unlawful for you to loiter, prowl, or wander upon another’s property and peek in the door or window of any inhabited building or structure, with no lawful business its owner or occupant. 1 This is commonly referred to as “loitering and peeking”.

Invasion of privacy Wallin & Klarich
Invasion of privacy is different from Peeping Tom.

Further, under PC 647(j), if you look through a hole or opening intending to invade another person’s privacy by using certain devices or in any place where it is reasonable for one to expect privacy, you could be charged with the separate crime of invasion of privacy. Under this law, these “devices” and “locations” include: 2

  • Devices: Periscope, telescope, binoculars, camera, motion picture camera, camcorder, mobile phone, or other instrument;
  • Locations: interior of a bedroom, bathroom, changing room, fitting room, dressing room, tanning booth, or other place one reasonably expects privacy.

These two code sections make up what is commonly referred to as “peeping tom” crimes in California. In addition to these crimes under PC 647, you can also be charged with the following other crimes, depending on your intentions and the specific circumstances of your case:

  • Burglary (PC 459);
  • Public Intoxication (PC 647(f));
  • Loitering (PC § 647(h));
  • Trespassing or Entering Into a Dwelling (PC § 602.5(a) & (b)); or
  • Federal Criminal Voyeurism (18 U.S.C. 1801).

Prosecution of PC 647(i)

In order to be convicted of loitering and peeking, the prosecution must prove that:

  1. You delayed, lingered, prowled, or wandered on someone else’s private property;
  2. When you were on that property, you did not have a lawful purpose for being there; AND
  3. When you were on the property, you peeked in the door or window of an inhabited building or structure.

In order to be convicted of PC 647(j), the prosecution must prove that:

  1. You willingly looked through a hole or opening;
  2. You looked into the interior of a bedroom, bathroom, changing room, fitting room, dressing room, tanning booth, or other place one reasonably expects privacy;
  3. You used a periscope, telescope, binoculars, camera, motion picture camera, camcorder, mobile phone, or other instrument; AND
  4. When you looked through the hole or opening, you intended to invade someone’s privacy.

Possible Defenses to California Peeping Tom Crimes

A skilled criminal defense attorney will be able to raise several legal defenses on your behalf in an attempt to prevent you from being convicted of PC 647(i) and PC 647(j). Some defenses might include:

  • Trespassing vs Peeping Tom
    Intent is important.

    You never entered another’s person’s property;

  • The structure was not inhabited;
  • You were not peeking;
  • You did not intend to loiter;
  • You were on that person’s property for lawful purposes or with their consent;
  • The person(s) allegedly “peeped” on did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy; OR
  • You never intended to invade someone else’s privacy. (PC 647(j))

Sentencing and Punishment for Loitering and Peeking/Privacy Invasion

Loitering and Peeking (PC 647(i)) and Privacy Invasion (PC 647(j)) are both misdemeanor crimes in California and carry the same punishment upon conviction. If you are convicted of either of these crimes, you face a sentence of 2 days to 6 months in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000 for each violation, or both jail and fine.

A conviction for either of these crimes does not require registration under California Penal Code 290; however, according to California Penal Code 290.006, you could be ordered to register based upon the court’s discretion if you are found to have committed these crimes as a result of sexual compulsion or for purposes of sexual gratification.

FAQs Regarding California Peeping Tom Crimes

At Wallin & Klarich, we commonly receive questions from those facing charges of loitering and peeking and privacy invasion.

What qualifies as an inhabited structure?

If the building or structure is being used as a dwelling at the time you allegedly peeked inside, it is “inhabited” for purposes of PC 647(i). It makes no difference whether or not someone was home at the time you allegedly peeked.

Can I be found guilty even if the dwelling was abandoned?

The structure is not inhabited if it has been abandoned. A structure has been abandoned if its residents have moved and do not intend to return, even if personal items were left behind. 3 Thus, if you loitered onto abandoned property, you should have a successful defense.

If I am found guilty of either PC 647(i) or 647(j) will I have to register as a sex offender?

Maybe, a conviction for either of these crimes does not require registration under California Penal Code 290; however, according to California Penal Code 290.006, you could be ordered to register based upon the court’s discretion if you are found to have committed these crimes as a result of sexual compulsion or for purposes of sexual gratification.

If convicted, are there alternative sentencing options other than serving time in jail?

As mentioned, these crimes carry a minimum two-day county jail sentence. However, because these crimes are misdemeanors, summary probation is an option. In fact, the court is empowered to reduce or eliminate the mandatory two-day imprisonment if “the interests of justice are best served.” 4 That’s why it is extremely important to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer with knowledge of all the alternatives the court allows to be used to avoid a jail sentence.

Call the Experienced and Skilled Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich

peeping tom attorneys
Our Peeping Tom attorneys can help you!

If you or a loved one has been charged with violating California’s “peeping tom” crimes under PC 647, you need to contact an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney immediately.

At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled attorneys have been successfully defending clients facing loitering and peeking and invasion of privacy charges for over 30 years. We will meet with you to review the facts of your case and plan a defense strategy that will help you get the very best outcome possible in your case.

With offices located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.


1. [Pen. Code, § 647(i)]
2. [Pen. Code, § 647(j)]
3. [People v. Cardona (1983) 142 Cal.App.3d 481, 483]
4. [Pen. Code, § 647(l)(2)]

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