Voyeurism: Texas Penal Code §21.17

Texas Criminal Law

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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.

The Texas legislature codified this criminal offense in Texas Penal Code Section 21.17 The law was enacted in 2015 and most recently updated in 2023 to clarify that this illegal spying included remote electronic observation.

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At the same time this law was originally enacted, the legislature created the Unlawful Disclosure of Intimate Visual Material offense. Interestingly, both that offense and the Voyeurism offense were initially designated as Penal Code Section 21.16, but Voyeurism was later redesignated as Penal Code Section 21.17.

The Penal Code classifies the Texas Voyeurism law under Title 5 “Offenses Against the Person,” Chapter 21 “Sexual Offenses.” Learn more about the Texas offense of Voyeurism 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.

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

Amendments effective in 2023

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.

How can I be charged with a Voyeurism offense in Texas?

You can be charged with Voyeurism in Texas 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 statute of limitation for Voyeurism in Texas?

Misdemeanor level Voyeurism charges have a two-year limitations period.[3] Felony level offenses have a three-year limitations period.[4]

What is the penalty for a Texas Voyeurism offense?

A conviction for Voyeurism in Texas is punished as a Class C Misdemeanor,[5] 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,[6] 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,[7] 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 here.

Can you get probation for Voyeurism in Texas?

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows both judges and juries to grant probation for Voyeurism, and judges are also allowed to accept deferred adjudication plea deals.[8]

Note, however, that judges may not grant community supervision after a conviction if (1) the defendant used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the felony or immediate flight thereafter and (2) the defendant used or exhibited the deadly weapon himself or was a party to the offense and knew that a deadly weapon would be used or exhibited.[9]

Do I have to register as a sex offender in Texas if guilty of Voyeurism?

The Voyeurism offense does not appear on the list of offenses requiring registration under Chapter 62 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.[10]

However, the legislature can add this offense to the list at any time. If that happens, people convicted of Voyeurism would have to register, even if the offense did not appear on the list at the time they accepted a deferred adjudication plea (even if later dismissed), pled guilty or were founty guilty.

What level of crime is Voyeurism in Texas?

The Penal Code classifies the punishment for Voyeurism as a Class C misdemeanor, Class B misdemeanor, or state jail felony, depending on the circumstances.

Learn more about the penalty range for this offense in the section above.

^1. Texas Penal Code §21.17. This law is current as of the 88th Legislature Regular Session.^2. HB 2306, 88th Texas Legislature, Section 1^3. Code of Criminal Procedure 12.02(a)^4. See Code of Criminal Procedure 12.01(9)^5. Texas Penal Code §21.16(b)^6. Texas Penal Code §21.16(c)^7. Texas Penal Code §21.16(d)^8. See Chapter 42, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 42A.054, Art. 42A.056, Art. 42A.102 .^9. Art. 42A.054(b), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure^10. Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 62.001

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