peeping Tom

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A person who peeps through a window, door, or other aperture of a building for the purpose of spying on people engaging in intimate activities, such as undressing or sexual acts. The term “peeping tom” may also include “video voyeurism,” which is where a person uses video or audio equipment to spy on people engaging in intimate activities.

The activities of peeping toms are often outlawed by criminal statutes, and civil actions may be brought against peeping toms as well. For example:

  • In California, the act of looking into private places in person or through the use of devices is a criminal offense. 

  • In Georgia and South Carolina, it is unlawful for any person to be a peeping tom. 

  • In the New York case Sawicka v. Catena, the court held that an employee was entitled to damages for emotional distress where an employer installed a video camera in a workplace restroom for the purpose of viewing the employees use the restroom.

[Last updated in July of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]