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Massachusetts court rules that taking ‘upskirt’ photos is not illegal; legislature and governor take action


This news story was published on March 9, 2014.
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NIT – Massachusetts courts and lawmakers last week hastily dealt with questions of decency and what is perverted behavior and what is not.

On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that it is not illegal to secretly photograph or videotape a person “who is nude or partially nude” in certain circumstances, including “upskirting” … pointing a camera up a woman’s skirt and taking photographs or video.

The issue was raised when two criminal complaints were lodged against a defendant, Michael Robertson, who was riding as a passenger on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority trolley.  On two occasions police alleged that Robertson aimed his cellular telephone camera at the crotch area of a seated female passenger and attempted secretly to photograph or videotape them, an illegal act in that state.  Cops then staged a decoy operation on Robertson. When the officers saw a man whom they identified as Robertson board the MBTA trolley, the officers boarded as well. The defendant stood in a stairwell of the trolley, and the female decoy officer, who was wearing a dress, sat across from him. Robertson directed his cellular telephone camera lens to within two to three feet of the decoy officer, focusing on her crotch area, and steadily held the telephone in that position for approximately one minute.

However, the supreme court ruled the act permissible and Robertson was let off the hook, putting the law in jeopardy.

The Massachusetts legislature then sprang into action and crafted a bill that outlaws “upskirting.”

By Friday – just two days later – Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed H. 3934, “An Act Relative to Unlawful Sexual Surveillance,” which modernizes the Commonwealth’s criminal voyeurism laws to outlaw what is known as “upskirting.” The law goes into effect immediately. The legislation makes 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, a crime.

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