Privacy Law

Upskirt photos not illegal under Mass. law, state high court rules; legislature then bans it


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Updated: Upskirt photos and videotapes of fully clothed women aren’t illegal under a Massachusetts Peeping Tom law, the state’s highest court ruled Wednesday

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said the Peeping Tom law does not apply in the case of a man accused of secretly taping women under their dresses and skirts as they rode the trolley. The Boston Globe, the Boston Herald and the New York Times have news coverage. How Appealing links to the opinion and additional coverage.

In response to the ruling, the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill Thursday banning “upskirting,” CNN reported.

In its ruling, the court referred to the language of the law, which bans secret photos and videotapes of completely or partially nude people in circumstances where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The law goes on to define partially nude, listing specific parts of the body that must be exposed to meet the definition. The state had contended it was irrelevant under the law that a private body part was covered by clothing, but the court disagreed.

“A female passenger on a [Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority] trolley who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering [private] 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 said.

Michael Robertson was charged under the voyeurism law after he was accused of taking cellphone video of a female transit officer’s crotch. She was sent in as a decoy after other women had complained.

Updated at 5:43 p.m. to note that the Massachusetts state legislature passed a bill banning upskirting.

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