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High Court Rules That Upskirt Photos Are Legal In Massachusetts

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"High Court Rules That Upskirt Photos Are Legal In Massachusetts"

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It is not against the law to secretly take photographs up a woman’s skirt in Massachusetts, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled Wednesday. The court dismissed charges against Michael Robertson, who was arrested by Boston transit police for taking photos and videos up multiple women’s skirts or dresses on the subway.

The judges sympathized with the notion that a woman should be able to have a reasonable expectation not to have secret photos taken up her skirt when she goes out in public, but ruled that current state law does not address that. Massachusetts’ “Peeping Tom” laws, as written, only protect women from being photographed in dressing rooms or bathrooms when they are undressed. Since upskirt photos are taken of fully clothed women in public, they don’t count, according to the court.

“A female passenger on a 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,’ no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing,” the court wrote.

Robertson’s lawyers defended his actions by arguing the photos were a matter of free speech.

Upskirt photos are becoming increasingly common with the spread of camera phones, but the law is slow to catch up with new technologies. Under most voyeurism laws, women must have a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” which is difficult to prove when she is in public. The Massachusetts court is hardly the first to acquit men who take these photos; perpetrators in Oklahoma, Indiana, and Washington have all been cleared by judges because the laws on the books did not apply. In response to one case in which a man legally took upskirt photos of a 10-year-old girl, Indiana lawmakers passed an upskirt ban in 2011. Other states have considered but not passed similarly updated voyeurism laws.

Update

Massachusetts lawmakers responded to the ruling by working “furiously” on a bill to ban upskirt photos, hoping to pass it through both houses and get it on Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk by Friday.

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