Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel told OPB’s “Think Out Loud” that even though he decided not to press charges, he put the homeowner, and other rental property owners, on notice.
“I was looking at the charge of invasion of personal privacy,” Hummel said. “The issue here was, did these people think that if they were in the hot tub in a state of undress, was that reasonable for them to think that they would not be videotaped in that area?”
The answer would have been “yes,” except that the hot tub was located on the front porch and the camera was installed in the front door. Oregon courts have treated the space near a home’s front door as a public area, Hummel said. If the hot tub had been located at the back of the house, he said the renters would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
If drugs had in fact been found at the property, Hummel said he could have used the evidence on the homeowner’s camera.
“If we uncovered evidence of a serious crime, such as a sexual assault or a murder, I probably would’ve gone forward with charges,” he said. “If we did find evidence of drug crimes in this case, I would’ve exercised my discretion to not charge the tenants.”
The homeowner didn’t tell the renters about the camera, but he claimed it was noticeable because of a glowing blue light. With both vacation rentals and home surveillance technology growing more popular, Hummel said he wasn’t surprised when the trends collided in this case.
“You absolutely can film your own house if it’s just you living there,” Hummel said. “But when you have a commercial enterprise, you invite guests into that house, and you film them without informing them, that’s the problem.”
Hummel put out a notice warning in the future he will charge homeowners who film renters without giving them notice in a place where they might be in a state of undress.
To hear more from “Think Out Loud’s” conversation with Hummel, click the play button on the player at the top of the page.