Comprehensive Overview (state-by-state) of the Legal Impact of wiretapping:
The Rhode Island interception statute addresses interception, disclosure and use of wire, electronic and oral communication and holds provisions that make the state a “one party consent” state.
The state’s only law addressing hidden camera surveillance is the video voyeurism statute, that prohibits the use or installation of an imaging device to capture, record, store or transmit visual images of the intimate areas of another person, under circumstances in which a reasonable person would not expect to be observed, with emphasis on nudity and sexual context.
Impact of law
Rhode Island is a “one party consent state” and allows the recording of a communication by someone who is a party to that communication or has received prior consent from one party to that communication. In other words, it is legal for someone to record his or her private conversations without the consent or without notifying the other parties.
The video voyeurism statute is only addressing actions for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification or stimulation, and does not award individuals any additional right to privacy, unless in the context of bodily exposure.
References to Physical TSCM
The law mentions “any device or apparatus which can be used to intercept wire, electronic, or oral communications”. It is our opinion that this covers most technical surveillance devices.
References to Cyber TSCM
Considering the definition of “electronic communication” as used in the text of law, we can asserts that “any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic or photo-optical system” is addressed by Rhode Island law, thus including any tool capable of intercepting such transfer of information.
Unauthorized interception and disclosure or use of contents obtained through such interception is punishable by up to 5 years of imprisonment. A person found guilty of the crime of video voyeurism can be imprisoned for up to 3 years and fined up to $5000.
Anyone whose wire, electronic or oral communication has been recorded, used or disclosed in violation of the law shall have a civil course of action and be entitled to recover from the perpetrator actual damages, computed at $100 a day for each day of violation with a minimum amount of $1,000, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and court costs.
R.I. Gen. Laws 11-35-21 Unauthorized interception, disclosure or use of wire, electronic, or oral communication.
(a) […] any person:
(1) who willfully intercepts, attempts to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or attempt to intercept, any wire, electronic, or oral communication;
(2) who willfully discloses or attempts to disclose to any person the contents of any wire, electronic, or oral communication, knowing, or having reason to know that the information was obtained through interception of a wire, electronic, or oral communication in violation of this section; or
(3) who willfully uses or attempts to use the contents of any wire, electronic, or oral communication, knowing, or having reason to know, that the information was obtained through interception of a wire, electronic, or oral communication in violation of this section; shall be imprisoned for not more than five (5) years.
(c) It shall not be unlawful under this chapter for:
(3) A person not acting under color of law to intercept a wire, electronic, or oral communication, where the person is a party to the communication, or one of the parties to the communication has given prior consent to the interception […]
R.I. Gen. Laws 12-5.1-1 Definitions.
(5) “Electronic communication” means any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic or photo-optical system
(7) “Electronic, mechanical, or other device” means any device or apparatus which can be used to intercept wire, electronic, or oral communications
(8) “Intercept” means aural or other acquisition of the contents of any wire, electronic, or oral communication through the use of any electronic, mechanical, or other device
R.I. Gen. Laws 12-5.1-13 Civil remedy.
(a) Any person whose wire, electronic, or oral communication is intercepted, disclosed, or used in violation of this chapter shall have a civil cause of action against any person who intercepts, discloses, or uses the communications, and shall be entitled to recover from that person:
(1) Actual damages, but not less than liquidated damages, computed at the rate of one hundred dollars ($100) per day for each day of violation, or one thousand dollars ($1,000), whichever is higher;
(2) Punitive damages; and
(3) Reasonable attorneys’ fees and other litigation disbursements reasonably incurred.
R.I. Gen. Laws 11-64-2 Video voyeurism.
(1) A person is guilty of video voyeurism when, for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification or stimulation, such person:
(a) Uses, installs or permits the use or installation of an imaging device to capture, record, store or transmit visual images of the intimate areas of another person without that other person’s knowledge and consent, and under circumstances in which that other person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
(b) Intentionally, and with knowledge that the image was obtained in violation of subsection (a), disseminates, publishes, or sells such image of the captured representation of another person or persons depicted in the representation or reproduction, and who did not consent to the dissemination, publication or sale.
(2) A person is also guilty of video voyeurism when that person, for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification or stimulation, looks into an occupied dwelling or other building by use of an imaging device that provides images of the interior of a dwelling.
(3) A person found guilty of the crime of video voyeurism shall be imprisoned for not more than three (3) years in jail and/or fined not more than five thousand dollars ($5000).