Voyeurism: Texas Penal Code §21.17

Texas Criminal Law

The Texas Voyeurism law makes it a crime to “spy” on someone without their consent for sexual purposes in a place that should be considered private.

This offense was created by the Texas Legislature in 2015. In the same session, the legislature created the Unlawful Disclosure of Intimate Visual Material offense. Each of these offenses were initially designated as Penal Code Section 21.16, but Voyeurism was later redesignated as Penal Code Section 21.17. Both offenses are classified in the Texas Penal Code under Title 5 “Offenses Against The Person” and Chapter 21 “Sexual Offenses.”

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In 2023, the law was amended to clarify that this illegal spying included remote electronic observation. Learn more detailed information about the Voyeurism offense below.

What is the current Texas law about Voyeurism?

The current Texas law defines the offense of Voyeurism in Penal Code Section §21.17 as follows:[1]

(a) A person commits an offense if the person, with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of the actor, observes, including remotely through the use of electronic means, another person without the other person’s consent while the other person is in a dwelling or structure in which the other person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The phrase “including remotely through the use of electronic means,” in subsection (a) was added in 2023 by the Texas legislature.[2] This change was made to make it clear that observing through electronic means, such as with drones or hidden cameras, constitutes an offense under PC 21.07.

As described below, subsections (b), (c) and (d) classify the potential punishment levels for the offense.

How can I be charged under the Texas Voyeurism law?

You can be charged with Voyeurism if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 21.16(a) as described in the section above have been met.

What is the punishment for violating the Voyeurism law in Texas?

A conviction for Voyeurism is punished as a Class C Misdemeanor,[3] with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $500, unless the victim is under 14 or the state can prove you have two or more previous Voyeurism convictions.

If you have two or more prior convictions, the offense can be punished as a Class B misdemeanor,[4] with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $2,000 and jail time of up to 180 days.

If the victim was a child younger than 14 years old at the time, then the offense is punished as a State Jail Felony,[5] with a maximum fine under Texas state law of up to $10,000 and up to 2 years in a state jail. Learn about the differences between grades of felonies and misdemeanors

^1. Texas Penal Code §21.17^2. HB 2306, 88th Texas Legislature, Section 1^3. Texas Penal Code §21.16(b)^4. Texas Penal Code §21.16(c)^5. Texas Penal Code §21.16(d)

Voyeurism text over Texas and American flags

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