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  1. #1
    richiez is offline Junior Member
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    Hidden Camera at work question

    I work in a school building in Hampton, VA. I've been with the school system approximately 19 years. (I'm a Guidance Counselor Director) I have my own office with 5 other employees that work under my supervision.

    As crazy as this sounds, we have an Assistant Principal that works in the building that has been seen after school hours going in and out of locked classrooms and offices. (He has a master key to the building)

    I'm 100% convinced that he's deleting files on computers, going through desk drawers, etc...(Everyone that he attempts to bully, mysteriously has files erased on their computers, things stolen from their office or classroom and so on)

    He is NOT my Supervisor in any way. Would it be legal for me to leave a hidden camera in my office at night in a attempt to catch him in the act? I will NOT use the audio function, only the video.

    Any advice would be appreciated...just please give me some type of case law reference so that I can have something in writing before I pursue this.
  2. #2
    Beth3 is offline Senior Member
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    It doesn't appear that you lawfully can do this as you would not be a party to the recording:

    An individual can record or disclose wire, oral, or electronic communications to which he is a party, or if one party to the communication consents. Otherwise, it is a felony. Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-62.

    A lawyer’s recording of a telephone conversation with the consent of one, but not all, parties to the conversation was found to be legal, though unethical, under Virginia law. U.S. v. Smallwood, 365 F.Supp.2d 689 (2005).

    Under the statute, consent is not required for the taping of a non-electronic communication uttered by a person who does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that communication. See definition of “oral communication,” Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-61; Belmer v. Commonwealth, 553 S.E.2d 123 (Va. App. 2001).

    Criminal penalties for violating the law include imprisonment for one to five years or, at the discretion of a jury or judge, confinement in jail for up to 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both. Va. Legis. 579. A civil cause of action is authorized by statute for $100 per day of violation or $1,000, whichever is greater. Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-69. Punitive damages, attorney fees, and litigation costs can be recovered under the statute as well. Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-69.


    Besides, even if this were lawful in your State, that doesn't mean school administration won't summarily dismiss you when they find out you've made a video recording. Why not just go to the principal with your concerns and let him or her handle it?
    A person, who is nice to you, but rude to a waiter, is not a nice person. (This is very important. Pay attention. It never fails.)
  3. #3
    eerelations is offline Senior Member
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    Why don't you just tell the Principal what you've seen and let the Principal handle it from there?
  4. #4
    You Are Guilty is offline Senior Member
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    Another thought - putting a password on your computer would be a lot easier than setting up a hidden camera and would not open you up to any potential legal liability.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tranquility
    Once you get to crazy land, it is only a guess on how to get out.
  5. #5
    swalsh411 is offline Senior Member
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    How is he able to access files in your "my documents"? Does he have admin rights to your computer? I would also suggesting backing up files to a thumb drive if you can.
  6. #6
    antrc170 is offline Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beth3 View Post
    It doesn't appear that you lawfully can do this as you would not be a party to the recording:

    An individual can record or disclose wire, oral, or electronic communications to which he is a party, or if one party to the communication consents. Otherwise, it is a felony. Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-62.

    A lawyer’s recording of a telephone conversation with the consent of one, but not all, parties to the conversation was found to be legal, though unethical, under Virginia law. U.S. v. Smallwood, 365 F.Supp.2d 689 (2005).

    Under the statute, consent is not required for the taping of a non-electronic communication uttered by a person who does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that communication. See definition of “oral communication,” Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-61; Belmer v. Commonwealth, 553 S.E.2d 123 (Va. App. 2001).

    Criminal penalties for violating the law include imprisonment for one to five years or, at the discretion of a jury or judge, confinement in jail for up to 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both. Va. Legis. 579. A civil cause of action is authorized by statute for $100 per day of violation or $1,000, whichever is greater. Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-69. Punitive damages, attorney fees, and litigation costs can be recovered under the statute as well. Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-69.


    Besides, even if this were lawful in your State, that doesn't mean school administration won't summarily dismiss you when they find out you've made a video recording. Why not just go to the principal with your concerns and let him or her handle it?
    I disagree Beth. This is not an issue of recording communication, which is the statute that you have cited. Rather this is an issue of survellance.

    I think that the recording would be legal. VA 18.2-386.1 details when recordings are prohibited and there is nothing in this scenario that meets those requirements. The city/state has granted the OP with the authority over the office space to conduct routine business. There is no expectation of privacy in a public office as there would be a restroom. Even if it is after hours, it is a public space under the control of the OP. The placement of a video surveillance camera to capture picture would not be a violation of the law.
  7. #7
    Beth3 is offline Senior Member
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    I stand (or rather sit) corrected.
    A person, who is nice to you, but rude to a waiter, is not a nice person. (This is very important. Pay attention. It never fails.)
  8. #8
    richiez is offline Junior Member
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    Thank you for the reply. Yes, as I stated in my original post, there will be NO audio recording, only video. The bottom line is, he has no reason to be in my office after hours.

    I'm well aware of the audio recording laws in Virginia, but I've had a hard time locating anything with video. Thanks again.
  9. #9
    richiez is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by eerelations View Post
    Why don't you just tell the Principal what you've seen and let the Principal handle it from there?
    I have. He is well aware of the situation and very supportive. They hate the guy, but as of today, they have no solid evidence.

    The school system is extremely political, therefore nothing will be done until there is solid evidence. Thanks for your reply.
  10. #10
    Zigner is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by richiez View Post
    The bottom line is, he has no reason to be in my office after hours.
    There is a major flaw in this statement. You seem to think that you have some ownership of the office in question. You do not.
  11. #11
    richiez is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by You Are Guilty View Post
    Another thought - putting a password on your computer would be a lot easier than setting up a hidden camera and would not open you up to any potential legal liability.
    Yes, of course there is a master password...go figure, he's a computer genius. I have notified our tech department and they are looking in to it.
  12. #12
    richiez is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zigner View Post
    There is a major flaw in this statement. You seem to think that you have some ownership of the office in question. You do not.
    Actually, you're incorrect. Because of the sensitive material in my office, I am the ONLY person allowed in the office unless there is an emergency.
  13. #13
    Zigner is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by richiez View Post
    Actually, you're incorrect. Because of the sensitive material in my office, I am the ONLY person allowed in the office unless there is an emergency.
    You do not own the office. I am correct.
  14. #14
    justalayman is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zigner View Post
    You do not own the office. I am correct.
    OP doesn't own the office but some of the files OP maintains could be protected by privacy laws.
  15. #15
    Zigner is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by justalayman View Post
    OP doesn't own the office but some of the files OP maintains could be protected by privacy laws.
    Sure, but so long as he does not access items protected by confidentiality laws, there is nothing illegal occurring.

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