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Criminal Law/unauthorized picture-taking

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QUESTION: I live in a small town in Oregon. Today I was standing at my back door. The main door was open but the storm door [glass panels] was closed, so that means I was still inside my house. My neighbor saw me, pulled out his cell phone and took pictures of me. This continued for quite a few minutes. I then told him he was violating my privacy and left the door. I called the Police and was told this is not illegal. I now feel uncomfortable about even going outside. Was I told the truth about this being legal? Perhaps with information from professional the Boys at the Police station will take me seriously, or am I just going to have to put up with it?

Yesterday they tore my American Flag down and threw it on the ground. The Police told me that's not illegal either.

ANSWER: Debee,

Although the police may be right about the photography if it was the first incident, you will have grounds for building a case of "Stalking."  See statute below:

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RCW 9A.46.110
Stalking.
(1) A person commits the crime of stalking if, without lawful authority and under circumstances not amounting to a felony attempt of another crime:
(a) He or she intentionally and repeatedly harasses or repeatedly follows another person; and
(b) The person being harassed or followed is placed in fear that the stalker intends to injure the person, another person, or property of the person or of another person. The feeling of fear must be one that a reasonable person in the same situation would experience under all the circumstances; and
(c) The stalker either:
(i) Intends to frighten, intimidate, or harass the person; or
(ii) Knows or reasonably should know that the person is afraid, intimidated, or harassed even if the stalker did not intend to place the person in fear or intimidate or harass the person.
(2)(a) It is not a defense to the crime of stalking under subsection (1)(c)(i) of this section that the stalker was not given actual notice that the person did not want the stalker to contact or follow the person; and
(b) It is not a defense to the crime of stalking under subsection (1)(c)(ii) of this section that the stalker did not intend to frighten, intimidate, or harass the person.
(3) It shall be a defense to the crime of stalking that the defendant is a licensed private investigator acting within the capacity of his or her license as provided by chapter 18.165 RCW.
(4) Attempts to contact or follow the person after being given actual notice that the person does not want to be contacted or followed constitutes prima facie evidence that the stalker intends to intimidate or harass the person. "Contact" includes, in addition to any other form of contact or communication, the sending of an electronic communication to the person.
(5)(a) Except as provided in (b) of this subsection, a person who stalks another person is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
(b) A person who stalks another is guilty of a class B felony if any of the following applies: (i) The stalker has previously been convicted in this state or any other state of any crime of harassment, as defined in RCW 9A.46.060, of the same victim or members of the victim's family or household or any person specifically named in a protective order; (ii) the stalking violates any protective order protecting the person being stalked; (iii) the stalker has previously been convicted of a gross misdemeanor or felony stalking offense under this section for stalking another person; (iv) the stalker was armed with a deadly weapon, as defined in RCW 9.94A.825, while stalking the person; (v)(A) the stalker's victim is or was a law enforcement officer; judge; juror; attorney; victim advocate; legislator; community corrections' officer; an employee, contract staff person, or volunteer of a correctional agency; court employee, court clerk, or courthouse facilitator; or an employee of the child protective, child welfare, or adult protective services division within the department of social and health services; and (B) the stalker stalked the victim to retaliate against the victim for an act the victim performed during the course of official duties or to influence the victim's performance of official duties; or (vi) the stalker's victim is a current, former, or prospective witness in an adjudicative proceeding, and the stalker stalked the victim to retaliate against the victim as a result of the victim's testimony or potential testimony.
(6) As used in this section:
(a) "Correctional agency" means a person working for the department of natural resources in a correctional setting or any state, county, or municipally operated agency with the authority to direct the release of a person serving a sentence or term of confinement and includes but is not limited to the department of corrections, the indeterminate sentence review board, and the department of social and health services.
(b) "Follows" means deliberately maintaining visual or physical proximity to a specific person over a period of time. A finding that the alleged stalker repeatedly and deliberately appears at the person's home, school, place of employment, business, or any other location to maintain visual or physical proximity to the person is sufficient to find that the alleged stalker follows the person. It is not necessary to establish that the alleged stalker follows the person while in transit from one location to another.
(c) "Harasses" means unlawful harassment as defined in RCW 10.14.020.
(d) "Protective order" means any temporary or permanent court order prohibiting or limiting violence against, harassment of, contact or communication with, or physical proximity to another person.
(e) "Repeatedly" means on two or more separate occasions.

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What you need to do is call the police department again and ensure that the first incident was recorded on an incident report or the like.  Section (6)(e) states that in order to qualify for charging under this statute "repeatedly" means two or more separate occasions.  Therefore if you are frightened by his actions believing that he could hurt you and it is repeated, then you can request prosecution under this statute.  

As for the tearing down of your U.S. Flag, that would constitute a charge under Malicious Mischief in the Third Degree.  See statute below:

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RCW 9A.48.090
Malicious mischief in the third degree.
(1) A person is guilty of malicious mischief in the third degree if he or she:
(a) Knowingly and maliciously causes physical damage to the property of another, under circumstances not amounting to malicious mischief in the first or second degree; or
(b) Writes, paints, or draws any inscription, figure, or mark of any type on any public or private building or other structure or any real or personal property owned by any other person unless the person has obtained the express permission of the owner or operator of the property, under circumstances not amounting to malicious mischief in the first or second degree.
(2) Malicious mischief in the third degree is a gross misdemeanor.

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Again, ensure that your complaint is documented.  It sounds like there is much more going on so ensure that you protect yourself.   

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: That was excellent information! I wish I could use it. I have been documenting these people for many years, and called the Police. I don't know if reports were filed or not, though. I certainly agree; this is a form of harassment. If you could see the list. The boys with badges won't do anything because these sociopaths know exactly how far to go before the line is crossed. ie: before a misdemeanor becomes a felony. The jails are full and they know it. I have been told "I'm going to burn your house down with you in it". I have been asked if I wanted to to "ganged-banged". These are only a few examples. Criminals don't go to jail anymore, so no matter where I live it doesn't matter. Ironically, they are quick to call the cops on me if they want, but it's mostly to cover their own behavior. I have talked to the Chief of Police but got nowhere. A copy of an incident report costs $8, so you could imagine. (though about a civil suit). At this writing I am on eggshells waiting for something else to happen. I carry my camera outside now, as I [won't] own a cell phone.

Answer
Debee,

I am sorry you are in that situation.  I wish the information that I can provide was of more use to you.  Unfortunately you are correct about them knowing how far they, the bullies, can push the limit before their collective behavior becomes criminal.  They are well versed in the law. I wish you well.  Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.  

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Jeffrey Hauck

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I would welcome the opportunity to answer questions relating to or related to the field of criminal law.

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Criminologist. Professor of Criminal Justice. Licensed Private Detective with expansive clientele base encompassing hundreds of cases. Donates resources and time to the Children's Rescue Network in Orlando, FL.

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