Jill Kolodner | November 2, 2020 | Maryland Law
It can be challenging for working parents to leave their children at home all day with a nanny or babysitter. Even if you have done a thorough background check on the person who is taking care of your children, without being there, it is hard to know if your children are being well cared for.
Many working parents, to get a better idea of how their children are being treated in their absence, and to make sure they are safe, decide to install nanny cams. Nanny cams are small and can be hidden just about anywhere in your home. They are easy to install and are quite affordable. Indeed, it has never been easier to “spy” on your home and check to see that your children aren’t being abused, assaulted, or otherwise mistreated.
But just because something is cheap to buy and easy to install, and just because many others are doing it doesn’t mean it is legal or wise.
Before setting up a nanny cam in your home or even deciding which one to buy, it is important you understand surveillance laws in your state.
Maryland Laws Relating to Recording Others
In every state in America, it is legal to install and use a hidden video recording device, or nanny cam. This means that from Washington to Wisconsin and from Maryland to Montana, you have the right to put a hidden nanny cam in your home.
The caveat to this is that you should not install the camera in a place where your nanny would have a reasonable expectation of privacy such as a bathroom or bedroom if they live in your home with you. Outside of those two locations, there are no legal issues related to using a hidden nanny cam.
Things are different, however, if the nanny cam also records audio. Many states in the country follow the federal government’s “one-party consent” laws for recording conversations. Under one-party consent, you can record a conversation as long as one of the parties in the conversation knows it is being recorded.
Maryland, however, is one of just over a dozen states that require “all-party consent.” This means that in Maryland you can only record a conversation if all of the parties involved in the conversation consent to being recorded.
Penalties for Recording Without Consent
Failure to inform another party, like a nanny, that you are recording their conversations can come with stiff criminal and civil penalties.
On the criminal side of things, if you record your nanny’s conversations without his or her consent you could be found guilty of a felony and face jail time of up to five years and a fine of up to $10,000.
What’s more, is that if you record someone in Maryland without their consent you leave yourself open to a civil lawsuit. If your nanny decided to sue you for damages you might have to pay:
- Up to $100 per day you recorded them
- Punitive damages
- Their attorney’s fee and other costs they may have incurred
It should be noted, however, that this area of the law isn’t entirely settled. As the law is written, the courts in Maryland have generally found that all-party consent is only required where a reasonable expectation of privacy exists, again places like bathrooms and living quarters. There is the possibility that if you installed a nanny cam that recorded both audio and video in a common area in your home that you wouldn’t be found guilty or liable.
Seeking Legal Advice
The best course of action to take before installing a nanny cam might be to talk to your nanny and inform them that you plan to put a camera in your home. It might also be wise to contact a personal injury lawyer who can advise you on matters of liability.
Contacting a lawyer is also recommended if you have been recorded without your consent and feel that your privacy has been infringed upon.