Massachusetts Quickly Updates State Law After Court says “Upskirt” Photos are Legal

Mar. 12th, 2014   /  

Recently, a court in Massachusetts ruled that, according to what was state law at the time, it was not unlawful someone to secretly take a photograph up a woman’s skirt (engaging in a practice known informally as “upskirting”).

Society, thanks in large-part to its ever-hungry appetite for technological development, has evolved to the point such that everyone is now a cameraman or camerawoman. When something spontaneous happens in a city park, hundreds are there to document it; when LeBron James hits a game-winning 3-pointer, the event is not only captured by ESPN, but also by thousands of fans on their iPhones.

This would all be great if nobody ever did anything to bother or violate the privacy of anyone else – unfortunately, however, we know all too well that the world is full of individuals who have no qualms about doing something to offend or trouble others. The law, in large part, exists to maintain order and to guarantee people rights; among these rights, based on Supreme Court interpretations of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, is the right to privacy.

It is difficult to reconcile the traditional right to privacy with the fact that nearly everybody who has a cell phone today also has a camera and, it appears, that the law has generally not yet caught up to speed.

Case in point: a Massachusetts man was arrested in 2010 and charged with attempting to take photographs and/or videos up the skirts of women who, according to the court documents, were “partially nude.” The Court that handed down the ruling in the case didn’t dispute that had the women been partially nude, the man’s actions would have been illegal. However, the Court argued (in agreeing with the defense) that despite the fact that the man tried to photograph the private areas of the women in question, the women were indeed fully clothed, based on the definition of “partially nude” as being the case when one or more of the private body parts are exposed in plain view. The law, at the time of the ruling, did not have a special clause making it illegal to engage in “upskirt” photography.

After the court issued the ruling, which caused reverberations all around the legal world, the Massachusetts legislature acted swiftly to make sure that state law reflects the changes that our society has witnessed due to technological advancements. It is now a crime in Massachusetts to, According to this article by CNN, the “secret photographing, videotaping, or electronically surveiling of another person’s sexual or other intimate parts, whether under or around a person’s clothing or when a reasonable person would believe that the person’s intimate parts would not be visible to the public” is now a crime in Massachusetts, punishable by up to $5,000 in fines and/or 2.5 years in prison.

For more information on this legal issue or any other, please reach out to us at the Law Offices of Aronberg, Aronberg & Green by calling 561-266-9191 or e-mailing us at daronberg@aronberglaw.com.

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