Peeping Toms will now face new penalties in Massachusetts.
The state legislature passed a bill outlawing the practice of “upskirting”: taking photos and videos up the skirts of women in public locations without their consent, reports CNN.
The legislation was a quick response to a ruling by the commonwealth’s Supreme Judicial Court that a man, who used his cell phone to secretly take photos and videos up women’s skirts while they were riding the Boston subway, hadn’t broken the law.
According to the court, the man’s activity did not fit under the state law criminalizing voyeurism – or “Peeping Toms.” The ruling said that the state law against voyeurism, “does not apply to photographing (or videotaping or electronically surveilling) persons who are fully clothed and, in particular, does not reach the type of upskirting that the defendant is charged with attempting to accomplish on the MBTA.”
The court further explained, “In sum, we interpret the phrase, ‘a person who is … partially nude’ in the same way that the defendant does, namely, to mean a person who is partially clothed but who has one or more of the private parts of body exposed in plain view at the time that the putative defendant secretly photographs her.”
But with this new law, future underskirt photographers could face consequences both in the form of monetary fines and jail time. A fist violation would be categorized as a misdemeanor and offenders could face up to 2.5 years in jail and up to a $5,000 fine. If the victim is under 18 years of age, the penalty could mushroom to a 10 year jail sentence and a $10,000 fine. Distributing the photographs would be treated as a felony.
Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo explained that the legislation modernized the law.
He said in a statement, “The House took action today to bring Massachusetts laws up-to-date with technology and the predatory practice of ‘upskirting.’ We must make sure that the law protects women from these kind of frightening and degrading acts.”
Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray also commended the legislation in a statement, “I am proud of the Senate for taking action today to restore a women’s [sic] right to privacy.”
Outlawing upskirting took just two days.
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