Can a duplex occupant videotape common areas and areas that are not hers?
September 17, 2007 11:24 AM   Subscribe

My friends just moved into a lovely, renovated duplex. Now they find themselves under surveillance--from their duplex mate. What to do?

The other occupant of the duplex has security cameras that cover much of the property, including the common area at the front of the house, the carport that they share, and the back door -- which opens from my friend's apartment to a yard that is expressly my friend's, though she does have a small window that looks out on it. The other occupant sometimes uses a wheelchair. She claims this is why she needs the cameras, for security and to see who is at the door. Possibly, but these things have also happened since Thursday (when my friends moved in):

-She told him she had an issue with "those people" coming over on Saturday (my girlfriend and I and a few other couples for brunch) and that some of "those girls" just go around to parties and are trouble

-She said that our friend who was talking on his cell phone outside was "standing in her car port for 20 minutes" and that "that is how people break in to steal her stuff"

In addition, from talking to the neighbors, she has had the cops dig up the hippie guy's garden next door TWICE, telling them he was growing pot, and she apparently gave 30 (!) tapes of the former duplex residents to the management trying to get them evicted. Apparently she also called the cops on them a lot.

We are in Texas. The cameras have got to be illegal. Are they? What should he do? He looked for this place for months and it is SO GREAT besides this issue. He asked me to post here to see if anyone has dealt with this before.

I can be contacted at nosyneighboraskme@gmail.com for followup.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (63 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Get small, highly-focused flashlights. Point same at the cameras. Prepare for neighbor to go utterly ballistic.
posted by aramaic at 11:32 AM on September 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Uh, if the cameras are on her property, looking at areas that can be easily seen from her property or from the curb (e.g. they're not looking into your house or into an area where a reasonable person would assume privacy, which a carport is probably not), I don't see why they'd be illegal.

The only camera it sounds like you might have a case against is the back yard one, if that's exclusively your friends' property (the back yard) and it's not visible from the street.

Some states regulate audio taping fairly strictly, under their wiretapping statutes. If the cameras have microphones, use of them on unsuspecting persons might be illegal.

You/they can always contact a lawyer to be sure, but nothing comes to mind immediately as to why she'd be in the wrong. Maybe there are some laws that could be used creatively against her, though (harassment, stalking, etc.).
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:35 AM on September 17, 2007


I was using "you" and "your friends" interchangably above. My bad.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:36 AM on September 17, 2007


First, make sure they are writing down dates when they learned of these goings on. If they have to ditch, it might be important in court.

Second, have them contact their landlady by phone and let them know that in no way is this behaviour acceptable. Mention politely to the land lady that they will be sending a certified letter stating their protest of this behaviour.

Third, call the non-emergency line of the police department to see if the cameras are legal. I would guess if the other tenant has the landlord's tacit approval they are legal. If the landlord decides they must go, they must go.

Fourth, do not engage the duplex mate in conversation. Talking will get you no where. She is under the delusion that it is her duplex and she can't handle other people's lifestyle. If she raises an issue that is superfluous like these, tell her to please take it up with the landlady. Then run like mad and call the landlady first to tell her what is going down.

Last resort, have over friends constantly. Stand near her house and talk loudly, get her to where the cops think she is a total joke and then have them talk to her about making false reports and how its a big no no and to quit wasting their fucking time.
posted by stormygrey at 11:38 AM on September 17, 2007


In my experience, it's best to forget about reasoning with people like your neighbor. They obviously don't understand concepts like privacy, reasonable use of a rented property, or that everyone is not wearing a sign that says, "And what do YOU think? Be specific, cite numerous personal anecdotes, and take your time... I have nothing better to do than to listen to my nutty neighbor all day!"

Learn this mantra: "You'll have to take it up with the management. I need to get going. See ya!"

Then say this mantra every time your neighbor bugs you:
"You'll have to take it up with the management. I need to get going. See ya!"

You'll get the hang of it with practice. Meantime, go on about your business.
posted by Rykey at 11:40 AM on September 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


Large container plants might be useful for limiting her field of view.
posted by contraption at 11:41 AM on September 17, 2007


is the place rented or owned? that may make a difference.

if rented, has he talked to the landlord? if she is the landlord, he may just have to put up with it. if the landlord doesn't care and won't ask her to remove or redirect the cameras, he may also have to put up with it. i don't know what rights tenants have over common space in texas (or anywhere else).

if owned, he may have some recourse over at least the cameras in the common areas.

if he can't do anything about the cameras, he may be able to block their view with a strategically placed hanging plant, yard umbrella, etc.

as for the greater problem of this woman being a nut, his best bet is probably to ignore her and not let her escalate.
posted by thinkingwoman at 11:45 AM on September 17, 2007


Take pictures from the cameras' perspectives. Make 8x10 non-glossy prints. Hang them in front of the cameras.
posted by mullingitover at 11:47 AM on September 17, 2007 [10 favorites]


Take away the cameras and this crazy neighbor will still be trouble. After the lease is up, move. I do like the idea of shining lights (lasers would be better) into the cameras though.
posted by caddis at 11:50 AM on September 17, 2007


with some cameras, you can fry their innards with a laser pen.
posted by bruce at 11:53 AM on September 17, 2007


Physics to the rescue!

A high power IR lamp will produce no visible light but will totally fuck all but the most expensive surveillance cameras.

Your neighbour will assume her cameras are broken and install new ones. You will turn off your lamps whilst this is happening. Then you will turn your infrared lamps back on.

3. Profit!
posted by alby at 11:54 AM on September 17, 2007 [17 favorites]


I'm seconding plants, screens or bright lights to block the cameras. She may have a right to record public spaces, but she doesn't have the right to see anything on those recordings. Also you might have some protection through anti-stalking, upskirt or wiretapping laws.
posted by electroboy at 12:10 PM on September 17, 2007


LASERS! GREEN LASERS! Right into the lenses of the cameras.

Act really suspicious. Any time you are outside, talk into your sleeve like a CIA agent would. Make sure you have black sunglasses on. Buy a bunch of these (Fake Security Cameras) buy so many it looks silly.
posted by remthewanderer at 12:13 PM on September 17, 2007 [6 favorites]


ooh I like the IR lamp idea!

I have nothing constructive to contribute, but here is a fun idea (that you should not do). I once rented a room in a woman's house while I was student. She was kind of bitter and got into a feud with the neighbors behind her. It culminated in her repainting the back side of her backyard fence - the side which is visible only to her neighbors - with ugly stripes of neon green and pink. So if you feel like escalating (which you should not) - put something hideous or objectionable within sight of the cameras, hopefully in a place where you don't have to look at it.

My constructive idea was to get some kind of hedge or screen to give you more privacy in your yard. But that might be a bit expensive.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:19 PM on September 17, 2007


Tell your friend to start a blog devoted to living next door to this person.
posted by Martin E. at 12:25 PM on September 17, 2007 [6 favorites]


What about frikkin sharks with frikkin laser beams? Seriously this neighbor is paranoid, and there ain't no way you can change that. If this is a rental you need to have the landlord talk to her about limiting camera use to her side of the duplex.
posted by Gungho at 12:29 PM on September 17, 2007


I second the blog idea. Public mockery is the only way people like this will learn.
posted by chunking express at 12:29 PM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yes, public mockery in a medium that this woman will never see. I don't see how it could fail.
posted by electroboy at 12:36 PM on September 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


behave so obnoxiously--yet still within the bounds of the law--within sight of the video cameras that she stops watching, or has a heart attack. skate right up to the edge of what is legal behaviour, but stop before you cross the line. essentially, beat her at her own game. she won't have grounds for complaint, as you're not doing anything wrong, but will (ideally) not be able to take watching anymore, at least if she isn't able to shut you down, either through personal confrontation or through police/landlord.

it'd probably be pretty fun, too. naked backyard margarita party!
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 12:37 PM on September 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


I love some of these ideas, but I think the best one echoes some advice my dad (a retired cop) once gave me in response to a psychotic neighbor. Do what you're doing, don't break the law, and let her call the cops. Be very polite to the cops and shake your head with a sad smile and be like "Oh yes, poor Mrs. Grumplestiltskin, she must be getting on in years, she overreacts to the strangest things!".

Cops don't exist to make you kick your friends out when you're not doing anything wrong, or ruin your good time. And it won't take long before they are frustrated with Mrs. Grumplestiltskin and tell her to stop calling for non-emergencies.

Just make sure you're not violating any terms in your lease or local laws / noise ordinances. And unless "those girls" are crack dealers or prostitutes, I don't think that having some girlfriends over is going to violate either.
posted by tastybrains at 12:51 PM on September 17, 2007


Third, call the non-emergency line of the police department to see if the cameras are legal.

Police are not lawyers.
posted by delmoi at 12:54 PM on September 17, 2007


If you live near any reasonably large city and start said blog, I bet you could get a LOT of people to come over and act suspicious in front of the cameras just for thrills.

Pretend to be on the crazy lady's side. Ask for copies of the tapes so you can work with the police. Post on YouTube. Become famous.
posted by trevyn at 12:57 PM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


What a PITA she sounds like, but to present a dissenting view: She sounds like she is isolated and probably lonely, that's probably in large part because of her tendencies, but it also seems like her tendencies could be amplified by her isolation and loneliness. So, try some kindness for a while.
posted by Good Brain at 1:13 PM on September 17, 2007


Any time you are outside, talk into your sleeve like a CIA agent would. Make sure you have black sunglasses on.

Wheel around some (empty, but the neighbor doesn't have to know that) oil drums and keep taking them in and out of storage in your yard, if you have it.

I'd avoid pointing lasers into her property, if only because you could be royally screwed if she happens to have one of them shine into her eye.
posted by oaf at 1:13 PM on September 17, 2007


Hopefully you can reason with the landlord and get the cameras removed but that might not as it seems like she has been in that spot for years. Do your thing and follow the lease exactly – park in your spot, no loud parties late. I don’t think you will ever be able to reason with this lady BUT if you every see her family comes by maybe you can chat with them to see if they can talk with her. This sounds like it is going to be a terrible lease so just try and ignore the crazy neighbor and begin searching for a new place in a few months.
posted by doorsfan at 1:14 PM on September 17, 2007


Try honey before vinegar.

How about having your friend bring over a casserole or a pie, re-introduce himself and tell her how much he enjoys living in his duplex?

He can then acknowledge her stated concerns and tell her nicely and firmly that he intends on living his life privately; that he'll be entertaining friends in his home and that he is concerned about her infringing on his lifestyle. He can tell her that his intention of "letting her live her life" should be reciprocated and that he looks forward to both becoming "good neighbors" -- albeit an understanding that "good fences make good neighbors."
posted by ericb at 1:25 PM on September 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Delmoi, police are not lawyers, but they generally know a fair amount about the law where you live. Its kinda their job.
posted by stormygrey at 1:37 PM on September 17, 2007


I'd be careful about the use of lasers to damage her cameras. If she can prove the neighbor did something that caused the camera to break, couldn't she file a complaint for destruction of property or something?
posted by onhazier at 1:51 PM on September 17, 2007


Delmoi, police are not lawyers, but they generally know a fair amount about the law where you live. Its kinda their job.

Not really. While I would expect the police to know a lot about the law they come into contact with on a day-to-day basis, especially regarding arrest, search and seizure, evidence, and typical crimes like driving offenses and theft, they aren't going to know very much about more esoteric stuff. They'll probably just guess. Call them anyway, but don't put too much stock into the answer they give you.

onhazier is right. Don't destroy the cameras. An IR lamp would be great since it causes no damage.
posted by grouse at 2:04 PM on September 17, 2007


Maybe it varies by jurisdiction, but I am a landlord in Atlanta and I have found the police usually know the answers to my weird questions about that kind of law and are usually pretty easy to get ahold of.

It might be an easy, free way for the friends to get started on their search for the best way to get around it.
posted by stormygrey at 3:10 PM on September 17, 2007


I doubt your friend can have an expectation of privacy in any shared areas, but the neighbor taping the back yard is something I would talk to the landlord about. She has no good reason for taping your friend's private back yard.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:11 PM on September 17, 2007


(I'm going to say "you" instead of "your friends" because it's easier.)

Lasers won't damage the cameras, just confuse them. A constant light source is easier to adapt to, however, so I'd suggest some high-powered IR illuminators connected to a blink circuit (a simple 555 driving an IRF510) set to about half a hertz. The camera will be constantly adjusting its sensitivity, and the image will be incredibly difficult, perhaps nauseating, to watch. Furthermore, since IR LEDs are so efficient, you can probably achieve the effect with just one or two of them, in a candybar-sized device positioned just outside the field of view. If you choose to go that route, which doesn't sound like a good idea.

See if your area has a renter's legal assistance center, and find out whether this sort of harassment by a neighbor might allow you to break the lease and move early. Hitting the landlord with this might give some extra leverage.

Tastybrains has it. Definitely have friends over often. Quiet, well-mannered friends who use the common areas appropriately. Make sure anything you do on camera is unassailably innocuous, at least as viewed by a sane, rational person.

Establish the carport as your usual "free nights and weekends, gonna talk on the phone for hours" hangout. Fresh air and good conversation go hand in hand, after all.

Consider establishing a small herb garden, if nothing in the lease contravenes this. Fresh basil on spaghetti is a treat you just can't get from dried flakes. If the neighbor thinks it's pot, you're golden. If it's obviously basil, so much the better. A few italian cookbooks and cans of tomatoes will help make this painfully obvious when the cops show up. Then file for harassment.

Start a blog which says nothing about antagonizing the neighbor. Simply make postings about the recipes you're trying, the wonderful zest you get from fresh herbs, and the friends who just got back from (xyz) and came over to enjoy some wine while telling you about it. Link their vacation photos from the blog, or whatever. This timestamped journal of innocuous explanatons for the neighbor's wildly fantastic interpretations will back you up if it ever goes to court. An occasional posting saying sad, though not mean, things about the neighbor's antics might be appropriate, because otherwise the absence of such reports would be conspicuous. Just make sure they're the minority of posts.
posted by Myself at 3:27 PM on September 17, 2007


Ok, these are all fun ideas, but in reality the best thing to do is go over the situation with the landlord. No sane renter is going to put up with this level of harassment. I'm sure the landlord understands this, but it's best to reiterate. This woman is showing symptoms of some type of mental illness which will destroy your ability to have a comfortable and safe home. Explain that if something is not done about the unacceptable harassment coming from the neighbor, you will move out, and any sane tenant who follows will do the same.

Explain to the landlord that this is not a threat, but a notice of what will happen: if decisive action isn't taken to eliminate the harassment, you will move out, and s/he will be forced to repeat the ordeal with the next tenant, and the next, and the next...
posted by mullingitover at 3:59 PM on September 17, 2007


An old lady in a wheelchair is bored out of her mind. She watches too many reality & cop shows, so she's paranoid as hell. She can afford to have security cameras installed.

I used to live across the street from her. No cameras, but I was observed closely. No wheelchair, but old age, and cancer treatment made her frail. Over time, I made it a point to befriend my neighbor, because she was incredibly lonely. It took baked goods, homegrown tomatoes and some handmade kid crafts to lighten her up. She died a while back, and the person who lives there now is crazy, aggressive and vile. The paranoid old lady? I miss her.
posted by theora55 at 4:04 PM on September 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


You could waste a bunch of money on 'high power IR lamps' or you could, uh, just uninstall the cameras. Wait until she's not looking or asleep or whatever and then simply take them down. Don't ask, don't tell, just do it. Leave them in front of her door with a polite note explaining that you will respect her privacy and she should expect yours. When she flips out then take up the matter and make it clear that you will not, under any conditions, tolerate being spied upon in your own home. If she puts the cameras up then you will take them right back down again. Eventually some compromise will be reached -- perhaps just cameras for the carport and door -- but when dealing with crazy people you have to play hardball because they subtle reasoning goes completely over their heads.

Also, since you know this woman is crazy you should go ahead and begin putting together a document record of her various abusive schemes. If the day ever comes that you need to demonstrate that your neighbor has a long history of sic'ing cops on anybody she doesn't like or doesn't know then a long list of verifiable dates and times will persuade most judges and officials much more than some he-said-she-said anecdotes.
posted by nixerman at 4:07 PM on September 17, 2007


I can't think of a reason they wouldn't want to move out. Even if the cameras get removed she'll still be an absolute pain, based on current behavior and past, taping people, trying to get them evicted, calling the cops.

At the very least have a serious discussion with the landlord about why the situation is completely unacceptable and unlivable. If that doesn't prove fruitful talk to a tenant's rights group and maybe a lawyer.
posted by 6550 at 4:38 PM on September 17, 2007


An old lady in a wheelchair is bored out of her mind.

Where in the question is it established that she is "old?"
posted by ericb at 5:06 PM on September 17, 2007


If your friends smoke pot they had better move out, now.
posted by kableh at 6:06 PM on September 17, 2007


Once upon a time I lived above an old lady who constantly complained to the landlord about me. My music, etc. The landlord turned the heat down on my hot water heater so low that I had to take a shower with pure hot water because she complained about the pipe squeaking when I shaved.

This went on for about three years. I moved to an apartment in the same complex about a hundred feet away. A month after I moved, the old lady died. Her daughter told the landlord they were very sorry that I moved.

Getting pissed at me was apparently the only thing she was enlivened by. I guess this doesn't really answer your question. Except it might make you feel a little bit better to know that anybody who allocates their energy to that kind of crap cannot have a very fulfilling life. It is sort of a physical impossibility.
posted by bukvich at 6:12 PM on September 17, 2007


As fun as some of the tricks sound, I'm for being nice to her. Before we got married, my wife's landlord was her next door neighbor (wife lived in a little house, landlady had a small building with her business downstairs and apartment up), and she was kind of like that, minus the cameras. She had "rules" against alcohol, no overnight guests, and comments about any visitors (including me) that came over. Once she got to know her, though, she turned out to be really nice, and even gave us a wedding present.

As theora55 said, she's probably stuck at home in front of the tube for hours on end. I realized from the CNN-tuned idiot box at the gym just how much they pipe crap into your head that makes you think everyone you meet is probably en route from a bank robbery to a crack deal.

When she comments about "those girls," laugh and say, "Oh, my friend Suzy, she's too busy knitting/being a mom/doing something else nice to go to parties."

Eventually, I think she'll soften up.

If that doesn't work, get in good with the landlord and do what Rykey said. And be super nice to the police if/when they show up.
posted by altcountryman at 6:13 PM on September 17, 2007


follow-up from the OP

-The cameras were put up by the other occupant of the duplex. The landlord lives across the street in another house. The nosy one is NOT the landlord.

-While she may well still be lonely, she does have a husband, she's not elderly and she's not living alone.

-She has a laser (!) window lock on the window that faces the backyard, too.

-I forgot to mention that she also went over and looked in my car (!) -- sans wheelchair, I will mention -- a little while after we parked at my friend's house.

He talked to the landlord this morning and the landlord said my friend should definitely say something about the backyard camera. I personally think the landlord should handle it. Moving is not really an option for them right now. They went through a lot to find this place and JUST moved in Thursday. The posters who have mentioned harassment and stalking may be on the best track for now. The fact that she is bothering them about what she sees them do on camera is really the worst part of all of this. They aren't doing anything illegal, but it's unnerving and annoying to think that she is watching all of their moves, and clearly with an eye toward malicious intent.
posted by jessamyn at 8:09 PM on September 17, 2007


Do your friends have a video camera of their own? Give her a taste of her own medicine. Spend some time outside taping different things - the carport, her car, the inside of her car, the building, the common areas, her security cameras - HER, if she happens to be outside. Be obvious about it, and make sure her security cameras can pick all this up.

Bonus points for making it look like you're filming 'evidence' for bringing a case against her, especially with the backyard invasion of privacy thing. Film around the backyard, then pan over to her camera, make a scowling face, point to her security camera while talking to your camera. Wave arms wildly while frequently pointing towards her house. :-)

One other alternative - if you have access to the breakers, cut the power to the house, cut the camera lines, turn the power back on. That'll buy you at least a few days of peace. Then again she may have power backups for her cameras because that's just what 'those people' would try.
posted by MarkLark at 9:30 PM on September 17, 2007


Even with the updated information from the OP I still think they should move. Unless I'm way off base the rental market in Texas is nothing like New York city. Yeah, it's a hassle to move but there are other places to live. The landlord seems completely uninterested in dealing with the problem when it's absolutely his responsibility to approach the neighbor.

While entertaining various ideas to get back at her are fun they'll only exacerbate the problem so I can't really recommend doing that. But if intending to say definitely start documenting everything: complaints, tapings, police calls (what you were doing when the police arrived), everything she says to you or other neighbors. Be meticulous and document everything.

But, really, don't stay if at all possible. Because even if you get the cameras taken down she'll always be horrible to live next to. Life's too short to put up with that kind of crap.
posted by 6550 at 12:23 AM on September 18, 2007


-She has a laser (!) window lock on the window that faces the backyard, too.


I am not sure I understand this. What is a laser window lock?
posted by caddis at 7:01 AM on September 18, 2007


Ok, this is the horse's mouth here, I'm the guy who lives in the duplex and the original post is about. I just had to join up and update you all on this crazy situation. So, here goes... I actually did take into account all of your postings yesterday ranging from lasers and IR light to politely trying to make nice with the crazy lunatic. Yesterday I called my landlord and told him about the situation. After some prodding, he admitted that a lot of people have had problems with this lady (and her husband) and that she calls the police on everyone in the neighborhood like it's her job. So, She is totally paranoid, she thinks that all the dogs want to bite her, all the people want to steal her stuff, and (as she told the cops last night (we'll get there)) that the neighborhood recruited me to harass her because they are all out to get her.

So, my decision after discussing and coming to an agreement with the landlord was that the best thing to do is for me to be neighborly and approach her to politely ask that she remove the camera that is pointed directly at my back door in my private back yard. So, I did this right after I got home from work last night. I actually approached her husband because I thought he was slightly more sane and he happened to be outside. After the polite request was mentioned, he starts shouting "No, it's not going to happen" "No, No, NO!" Meanwhile, I contend that the backyard is a private area, and that the first amendment to the US Constitution protects me from private individuals invading my personal property with video surveillance to intentionally cause emotional distress. Then she comes out the door screaming at the top of her lungs... "Dont fuck with my cameras, Don't Fucking Fuck with my cameras!" I never raise my voice, but continue to insist that they are violating my rights and that they have 24 hours to remove the camera before I will take legal action (which I actually can't afford, but whatever). Then she proceeds to threaten that as soon as I leave (as I was about to do) that she was going to call the cops and tell them that my dog is barking incessantly so that they will "take that thing away from you." I said, Ok, fine... I guess I'll call the cops now. So I did.

She goes inside and comes back out with a sob story for the cops about how she is in a wheel chair (which she only sits in when it is convenient for her, and walks as well as you or I) and that the whole neighborhood is out to get her, and that I am bringing people over to my house that want to harass her, and that my dog is vicious (she is a black lab who is the sweetest thing in the world (http://farm1.static.flickr.com/242/518085713_0799e39b59.jpg?v=0)).

The cops are total dicks to me, and they also insist that the constitution of the USA does not apply to Texas unless the state agrees.... where the hell do they get these nuts??? Anyway, I got no where exept for them to say that I can legally erect a sign no larger than 6 ft x 6 ft in front of her cameras that says "don't tread on me." So, that's fine, I'm going to go to Home Depot on lunch break and I'm sure the cops will be back again tonight after she flips her top about that.

P.S. to some of the posters who say that I should move. 1. I'm in a lease. 2. I don't want to cave to the fear that these type of people allow to rule their lives. and 3, I live in Austin. I know it's not New York, but it's getting totally out of control here (see: http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=oid%3A538028). And I have a great deal... so we're gonna stay, and live our lives like reasonable people, and she can live hers in fear. But, thanks for the suggestion.

To be continued...
posted by calculat0r at 7:21 AM on September 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's a window lock WITH LASERS.
posted by electroboy at 7:21 AM on September 18, 2007


Here's the Texas anti-stalking law. Although I don't know if calling the police can be considered a threat. Put up your sign and she'll probably threaten you for real though.
posted by electroboy at 7:28 AM on September 18, 2007


Also, give the Austin chapter of the ACLU a call. They might be able to help.
posted by electroboy at 7:37 AM on September 18, 2007


Not trying to be a jerk here but the cops were right in so far as the 1st amendment doesn't protect you from your neighbor's stupid cameras. The first amendment protects you from the government, not from your neighbor.

Your neighbor is paranoid. Literally. Not paranoid like me in so far as I think that the US is slowly moving towards an oppressive police state... paranoid like she obviously thinks that other people give a crap about her pathetic life and are so how responsible for her unhappiness.

If I were you I'd simply thwart her plans to spy on. Put a nice portable gazebo in the backyard where she can't see with the camera. Shine disrupting lights into her cameras. Maybe figure out a way to electronically jam them. Don't let her disrupt your life =)
posted by JFitzpatrick at 7:51 AM on September 18, 2007


The first amendment applies to private entities and individuals, the fourth applies to unreasonable search and seizure by the government.
posted by calculat0r at 7:58 AM on September 18, 2007


p.s. I'm not trying to be a dick about the constitution either, but I'm referring to the the way that the first amendment has been applied to privacy when a private entity's is violating one's personal privacy to cause emotional distress and obscenity (like when I want to wear my underwear in my private back yard). I'm no lawyer, and I know this is a broad interpretation, but it has certainly been applied to individuals before. Seriously though, like I said, I'm not an expert, just a citizen trying to protect his privacy... so if anyone has any real suggestions of a better leg to stand on, just let me know.
posted by calculat0r at 8:07 AM on September 18, 2007


they have 24 hours to remove the camera before I will take legal action (which I actually can't afford, but whatever)

Don't make empty threats. When you don't follow through on them, your adversaries won't take you seriously anymore. The same goes for making stuff up about the First Amendment.

Now that we know you are in Austin:

If either of you is a UT student, consult with Legal Services for Students. If not, call the Austin Tenants Council and see what they have to say.

Document, document, document. Especially the obscenities and screaming. Video would be best (they like cameras, right?). Especially document her vexatious abuse of the police against you and your neighbors. If it affects enough of you, a city council member might take an interest.

Regarding your lease, you might be able to break it due to these conditions. You may lose this right over time.
posted by grouse at 8:23 AM on September 18, 2007


http://supreme.lp.findlaw.com/constitution/amendment01/19.html

This site points out cases involving private entities using many different types of video taped material to cause damage to another individual. Many of these cases were won on behalf of the plaintiff using the first amendment as their basis. I know that most of these cases involve broadcasting or distributing the material, and I also agree that the state laws on stalking may be more attributable to this particular scenario.

But again, most of these cases pointed out in the findlaw.com website refer to private entity or individual vs. another private entity or individual. I'm not here to debate this like lawyers, but as you can see, many cases have sited the first amendment in regards to individual privacy.

The main point of my message about the cops was to say that it didn't even matter what I sited as a personal right, they would have shot it down. For this cop to say that the US constitution has no bearing in Texas, unless the state of Texas echos this law is ludacris. I might not be an expert, but this cop doesn't care. The cops don't know the law, they don't respect the law, and they do what they please. This is police state mentality, no accountablity no matter what, that is my point.

Can we now agree that though my opinions about the constitution may or may not stand up in court, that the first amendment has been sited in private v. private cases and succeeded? I thank you for your comments and suggestions, but I'm also not making shit up here. The bill of rights is broad and has had to be defined by the courts over the years. In the particular case of the first amendment, it has definitly been applied to personal privacy in court.
posted by calculat0r at 9:00 AM on September 18, 2007


The connection here is the freedom of press, which is broadly defined in the first amendment. Over the years it has been interpreted through courts. Video taping me in my private dwelling to use as harassment is not a protected right.

That is my final addition about the first amendment. If I am wrong in my interpretation and I could ever afford a lawyer to tell me so, then so be it. I do believe that I am protected from being video taped in my private dwelling, protected under the first amendment. I just want caddis and jfitzpatrick to see what I am saying, there is some grey area between expert and idiot, and I'm not siting empty rights. They do exist.
posted by calculat0r at 9:14 AM on September 18, 2007


calculat0r, you misunderstand those cases. The First Amendment is not what gives someone a right to privacy. It is what limits the right to privacy. In your case, it would be the crazy lady who could argue that her First Amendment right to freedom of expression was being violated by a law that permitted you to take legal action against her. The First Amendment is not useful to you in this dispute, only to her. You can cite an individual case if you want to discuss it further, but if you read one more closely you will realize that this is the truth.

But I agree about the cops, especially in Austin. My personal experience with APD is that they will make up entirely nonexistent crimes to get what they want (in my case, they came to my apartment looking for a previous resident I had never met, and they threatened me with criminal procedure for denying a search without a warrant).

Since the behavior affects several citizens in the neighborhood I think you might be able to bring other powers to bear on the police.
posted by grouse at 9:15 AM on September 18, 2007


Since the behavior affects several citizens in the neighborhood I think you might be able to bring other powers to bear on the police.

Absolutely 100%. Strength in numbers.
posted by mmascolino at 10:01 AM on September 18, 2007


Definitely try to get footage of her miracle of walking. If it occurs in the common space like the drive way, all the better.

Also, does the lease allow for your to add the security cameras to your property? Does she have the same clause in the lease about changes to the exterior of the property? The landlord would know. If her camera is mounted to the structure itself and if the lease does not allow changes to the exterior, would she be in violation of her lease?

Just a thought.
posted by onhazier at 12:17 PM on September 18, 2007


It's a window lock WITH LASERS.

OK, electroboy, so what, it puts on a light show? What's "a window lock WITH LASERS"??!
posted by JimN2TAW at 1:58 PM on September 18, 2007


Stick to the law.
Do not ask the Police for any advice. Find out your rights and apply them.
Nevermind the revenge tip.

However, she IS harassing you.

Get a lawyer to write a letter, send it by registered mail.
It should include the quote, 'cease and desist these actions, 1,2,3...33', or you will file a lawsuit charging her with harassment +, +. Remind her that you are her neighbour and you'll notice if there are any thieves skulking around, you and your friends aren't thieves. Furthermore, none of your camera peeping of your premises whatsoever.
Her camera's are intruding into your privacy. Especially since she's monitoring all events. Mention this in the letter from your lawyer [whom specializes in neighbourly conflict and certifiables for meds].

Your lawyer should request a Police report on all calls to her address. Seems a tad over the average¿ Bring it up. Start the addition.


A judge will not take kindly to her actions. Should a psychiatric evaluation be requested by you, the judge can take it into consideration. That would require you to use the other people with complaints about her as witnesses [subpoenaed by you if a court date comes around].

Your letter can include the other people's complaints about her, though.


Her opinion regarding your friends¿
Tell her to mind her own business. Period.
Whether you entertain a priest one night or hire a prostitute the next night is your own business.


Dude, you have to record her in action and send it to YouToob. Hey, it's 2008, almost.

My experience with an unruly neighbour¿ Called police to charge him. They did. Result¿ A cease and desist any communications whatsoever with me or face a fine of $———————, order. Gentle as a lamb he was afterwards and moved out shortly thereafter.

Stay cool and good going.
posted by alicesshoe at 4:54 PM on September 18, 2007


[undid some things that I did, sorry about that]
posted by jessamyn at 5:30 AM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


What's "a window lock WITH LASERS"??!


A joke, on my part. Beyond a motion sensor, I don't think there are any home security devices that use lasers.
posted by electroboy at 7:08 AM on September 19, 2007


Just to let you know, you are not alone. Gordie Howe, the hockey legend now 80 years old, has been harassed in this same way by his neighbors. He got a restraining order and is suing the neighbors.
posted by caddis at 8:26 AM on September 24, 2007


I forgot to mention that she also went over and looked in my car (!) -- sans wheelchair, I will mention -- a little while after we parked at my friend's house.

There have been several mentions of this already. For the record, a lot of people who legitimately use wheelchairs also walk unaided, often without appearing to be disabled at all. But that walking may come at a cost in terms of energy or pain, and it may not be possible to do except on a really good day. Or she may use her wheelchair as a place to sit, and walk around when she doesn't need it (that is, if she didn't have it, she'd do enough walking to cause a significant amount of pain, but with it, she has some capabilities).

You're in a shitty situation, and she's being a lousy neighbor. There's no denying that. And it is possible that she's using the wheelchair in the way that you imply. But you don't know that, and it's not a good idea to act like you do, especially since it might backfire if you tell an authority figure that she's faking it, and it turns out she isn't.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 8:09 AM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


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