Dear John, I like to walk around my house naked. Recently, I was having breakfast at the same time the neighbor behind me was mowing his lawn. I could see him seeing me. We kinda joked about it the next day when I was (clothed) out back gardening. However, was I wrong for not closing the blinds, or is he a peeping Tom for looking in my window?
To some extent, the phrase "a man's home is his castle" has some legal force behind it. The law supports privacy within the home by creating something called a "legal fiction." A legal fiction is an assumption that something is true even though it may be untrue. In your case, the law will assume that your windows are for looking out rather than for looking in.
However, there are limits to this assumption. The nature of the limitations depend on the intent of the participants. Here, your neighbor was probably intending to mow his lawn without seeing you and inadvertently looked into your window. Therefore, he is probably not a Peeping Tom.
The court would have to look at the intent of the participants to determine who, if anyone, was wrong. The characteristics of the participants may also play a significant role in this deliberation. For example, two adult males would be much more likely to have a determination of harmlessness than if the same interaction occurred between an adult male and a teenage girl.
While the incident you describe appears to be nothing more than a variation of the term "being neighborly," you may want to protect yourself from having to prove your "intent" by closing your blinds. That way, you won't have to rely upon a legal fiction to protect you from a real legal problem.
John Hartzell is a practicing Walla Walla attorney. No attorney-client relationship is established via this column, which is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Any information given is to illustrate basic legal concepts and does not state how any court would decide any matter. Have a question? Ask John at firstname.lastname@example.org.