The mission of the Connecticut Judicial Branch is to serve the interests of justice and the public by resolving matters brought before it in a fair, timely, efficient and open manner.

Criminal Law Supreme Court Opinion

by Booth, George


SC19772 - State v. Panek ("The defendant, John Panek, was accused of engaging in sexual activity with a woman in his home and, while doing so, making a video recording of the encounter without the woman's knowledge or consent. He was accused of doing the same thing on at least two other occasions with two other women. In three separate informations, the state charged the defendant with violating General Statutes (Rev. to 2009) § 53a-189a (a) (1). This section generally prohibits a person from, knowingly and with malice, video recording another person "(A) without the knowledge and consent of such other person, (B) while such other person is not in plain view, and (C) under circumstances where such other person has a reasonable expectation of privacy . . . ." General Statutes (Rev. to 2009) § 53a-189a (a) (1). The present appeal concerns the meaning of the element requiring that the victim be "not in plain view" when she is recorded. General Statutes (Rev. to 2009) § 53a-189a (a) (1) (B). More specifically, we are asked to determine to whose plain view the statute refers.

The defendant moved to dismiss the informations on the ground that the "not in plain view" element refers to the plain view of the defendant. He asserted he could not be charged or convicted under this statute for his conduct because each of the women he was with was within his plain view at the time he recorded them. The state responded that the "not in plain view" element of § 53a-189a (a) (1) referred instead to the perspective of the general public and that, because the defendant and the victim were inside his home at the time, they were "not in plain view" of the public when the alleged offenses occurred. The trial court concluded that the statute plainly and unambiguously referred to the plain view of the defendant and dismissed the informations. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgments of dismissal. State v. Panek, 166 Conn. App. 613, 635, 145 A.3d 924 (2016).

Contrary to the trial court and Appellate Court, we conclude that the text of § 53a-189a (a) (1) plausibly could refer to either the plain view of the defendant or the general public, rendering the statute ambiguous. Consulting extratextual sources, we are persuaded that the "not in plain view" element refers to the general public. We also reject the defendant's alternative ground for affirming the judgment of the Appellate Court, namely, that the "not in plain view" element is unconstitutionally vague or overbroad. We therefore reverse the Appellate Court's judgment.")