August 4th, 2017
by Diana Coada
Recently, one of my communities had an incident where police were called by a homeowner who caught another person take pictures of the homeowner in a bathing suit at the pool. Charges were not pressed, however. The explanation by the police (York County, SC) was that nothing could be done since the incident occurred at a public pool.
The immediate reaction from the association board of directors was that the pool was private, not public. So I looked into what voyeurism even meant (had heard the term, but luckily had not had to encounter it).
In South Carolina, voyeurism is defined as follows: “A person commits the crime of voyeurism if, for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire of any person, he or she knowingly views, photographs, audio records, video records, produces, or creates a digital electronic file, or films another person, without that person’s knowledge and consent, while the person is in a place where he or she would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.” (S.C. Ann. Section 16-17-470). It appears that, even if the community pool is private (not open to the public at large), it is considered public in the context of the voyeurism statute. Unlike a fenced pool in an individual’s backyard, a private community pool (at least in the eyes of law enforcement) does not afford the reasonable expectation of privacy required for voyeurism.
The North Carolina statute appears to be even more limited. Photographing an individual is a crime if it is done while peeping secretly into any room occupied by that individual. N.C.G.S.A. Section 14-202. The term “room” includes, but is not limited to, a bedroom, a rest room, a bathroom, a shower, and a dressing room. While it is unclear whether room includes a private pool, it does not appear that photographs or videos taken at an association pool would raise to the level of a crime.
Boards may attempt to prohibit pictures and videos taken at the pool without consent or knowledge by including such prohibitions in the pool rules they adopt.