Hidden Cameras in Hotel Common Spaces

Here’s the question I got from a Private Investigator and regular viewer: How much latitude does a PI have in digitally surveillance someone on property not their own (EG. hotel, motel, etc…) .

He went on to ask… If you’re on surveillance and need to record activity at a hotel, can you legally set up recording devices in common areas ( connecting halls, restaurant, gym, pool, etc..) without permission of management. And, if you rented a room as well at the location does that give you automatic rights to film the same areas at the hotel without approval since you rented a room and have legal access to those areas?

My Answer:

Of course, the question of what’s legal is best asked to an attorney, and I am not one, but here are my feelings on this subject. ..

I always ask myself what’s reasonable.

In any given circumstance would a person have a reasonable expectation of privacy?

To me just because a place is a “common area” is not enough.

If a person looks up and down a hotel hallway and see nobody around, they may scratch an itch or adjust his clothing having the reasonable expectation that nobody can see them.

Also, just because the owner of a property gives permission, that may not be enough. It’s only partly (if at all!) the property owner’s decision.

Now, if you are standing in that same hotel hallway or lobby and covertly recording, that seems entirely different to me because the subject knows someone else is there and has no reasonable expectation of privacy. But to leave a covert camera behind to record when you’re not around seems to me (and my also seem to the jury!) unreasonable.

Also, and this is not a small thing, your client may have restrictions on how they want evidence collected even if the method is completely legal.

For example some attorneys don’t want any conversations covertly recorded even if you are a party to the conversation. They just feel a covert recording “feels yucky” to juries and even if you are within your rights, a jury might rule against you because of your methods!

I do have an article and video on placing hidden cameras.

If you like this helpful tip, then don’t miss out on my free special report If You Want To be a Private Investigator Give Up… Unless You Do These Three Things. If not, you can get it right here…

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Committed to your success,
Larry Kaye, P.I.

P.S. – The P.I. who asked this question agreed with me. He had been involved in an online Private Investigator forum where this question was being tossed around and wanted my opinion. I’m always happy to answer any questions I can and, in this case, it was nice to see a fellow professional taking such an ethical stand.

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