Massachusetts Lawmakers Ban ‘Upskirting’

Massachusetts lawmakers have made good on the promise that taking “upskirt” photos, also apparently known as “upskirting,” would soon be officially illegal in their state. The promise came on the heels of a Wednesday ruling by the state’s highest court that taking photos up the skirts of unsuspecting subjects in public was actually legal under the then-current laws. One short day of deliberation later, and the law has changed. Massachusetts lawmakers quickly sent a clear message to would-be ‘creepers’ saying, “‘upskirting’ is officially illegal now, so get a life.”

“Peeping Toms” are a problem everywhere, and legislatures across the country have had to deal with the uncomfortable issues surrounding sexual predators. Massachusetts is no different. The state in fact already had laws on the books to address the issues connected with “Peeping Toms,” but apparently upskirting is a totally different category.

The “Peeping Tom” laws in Massachusetts, as was recently discovered, do adequately address the taking of photos or video’s of an unsuspecting subject, when that subject is “partially or totally nude.” The law thus provides a certain level of protection for individuals who are captured on camera when in the supposed privacy of their own homes, or in other places like restrooms. Upskirting however, at least according to the highest court in Massachusetts, does not or did not fall into that category prior to the changing of state law.

The “Peeping Tom” laws in Massachusetts stipulate that a subject be partially or totally nude in order for there to have been a crime committed. Due to this stipulation, upskiritng, which is the act in which an individual uses a camera to take photo or video footage up the skirts of unsuspecting subjects, does not fall under the “Peeping Tom” law’s coverage. This issue was highlighted when Michael Robertson was arrested in 2010 for upskirting: taking photos and videos up the skirts of unsuspecting female passengers as they traveled on the MBTA’s green line.

Robertson challenged the charges, which apparently were not supported by the Massachusetts “Peeping Tom” laws. Surprisingly, although nearly everybody agreed that the actions he undertook were morally reprehensible, the charges against him were thrown out on the basis that the law used to charge him did not outlaw his behavior. Justice Margot Botsford, in the ruling stated, “A female passenger on the MBTA trolley who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering these parts of her body is not a person who is ‘partially nude’…” The Justice did note that while there was a pressing need for a law criminalizing upskirting, the “Peeping Tom” laws had not adequately done so.

From the time the ruling was received Wednesday, it took Massachusetts lawmakers just a single day to quickly outlaw the morally bankrupt activity of shooting photos up the skirts of unsuspecting females in public. The Massachusetts legislature sent a quick message to would-be ‘creepers,’ one saying clearly now that, “upskirting is officially illegal, so get a life.”

The activity of shooting pictures up the skirts of unsuspecting subjects in public now carries with it two years of jail time along with $5,000 in fines. If the subject is found to be under the age of 18 however, the penalties significantly increase. In the case of an underage subject, the penalty could now be up to 10 years in prison along with a $10,000 fine. The message which should have already been clear by the writing of the “Peeping Tom” laws, is now even clearer. “From Massachusetts lawmakers, to would-be creepers across the state, ‘upskirting is illegal, get a life or go to jail.”

By Daniel Worku



CS Monitor

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