Would nursing home cameras violate federal wiretapping laws?

Would nursing home cameras violate federal wiretapping laws?

Some Illinois nursing home residents and their families have started using hidden cameras to help catch nursing home abuse and neglect. However, their usage has raised concerns about potential violations of federal wiretapping laws. Despite these concerns, state lawmakers are considering legislation which would permit the use of surveillance systems in nursing homes. As any Illinois nursing home abuse attorney could attest, the use of such systems may help prove mistreatment is occurring. This may help to stop the abuse and hold those committing the mistreatment responsible for their actions.

Federal surveillance laws

While it does not specifically address the use of nursing home cameras, there is a federal law currently in place that governs the use of surveillance systems. With few exceptions, the Federal wiretapping law strictly prohibits the use of electronic monitoring that records audio communications. In general, however, it does not restrict silent video monitoring.

So what does this law mean for the use of nursing home cameras? It generally allows people to use such systems within their own rooms. Since the law prohibits the intentional or purposeful intercept, disclosure or use of oral communications, however, only those cameras without audio may be used. Capturing audio communications may be a violation of the law. This can create issues with the use of nursing home cameras, as an Illinois nursing home abuse attorney knows, because without sound, it may be difficult to distinguish between a combative resident and abuse.

Proposed Illinois legislation

According to the Illinois General Assembly, state lawmakers have proposed new legislation, known as the Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act. Under the act, nursing home residents would be permitted to use surveillance systems in their rooms at their own expense. In order for such systems to be used, nursing home residents, as well as their roommates would have to give their consent. Among the proposed law’s provisions, it would be considered a business offense for facilities to retaliate or discriminate against those residents who give their consent to use such monitoring. Furthermore, the act would make tampering with, hampering, obstructing or destroying these systems a criminal offense.

While the act would, if approved, require surveillance systems in long-term care facilities to be conspicuously placed, not everyone who enters a room may know they are getting recorded. Therefore, issues could still arise with regards to the federal wiretapping laws if conversations are taped involving people who did not give their consent.

Reporting suspicions of abuse

With or without corroborating proof from a hidden camera, suspicions of nursing home abuse and neglect should be reported. As an Illinois nursing home abuse attorney knows, notifying the facility’s management, or the proper authorities, may help stop the mistreatment, and prevent the future mistreatment of others.

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