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Massachusetts races to ban upskirt photos after court says they're legal

Massachusetts races to ban upskirt photos after court says they're legal

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Controversial ruling sparked calls for new legislation

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Massachusetts' legislature quickly worked to pass a law making surreptitiously taking photos up another person's skirt in public illegal, after the state's high court ruled that these so-called "upskirt" photos could be legally taken under current state law. "It is sexual harassment. It's an assault on another person whether it's a child or an adult," Senate President Therese Murray said after the bill was passed. "Woman and children should be able to go to public places without feeling that they are not protected by the law." Governor Deval Patrick is expected to sign it into law.

The new law follows a ruling handed down Wednesday, in which the state's Supreme Judicial Court said that a man who took photos up the skirts of women riding the Boston subway did not violate state law, because the women he photographed could not be considered nude or partially nude. As NBC News reports, the state's Peeping Tom laws apply to people photographed in dressing rooms or bathrooms, but they do not protect clothed people in public areas.

"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 said in its ruling.

"Contrary to the spirit of the current law."

Prosecutors in the case had argued that the state's statutes could be interpreted to include upskirt photographs, but the defense argued that the laws only cover people who are nude or partially nude, and that the woman in question did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy on the subway. Following the ruling, lawmakers began work on legislation that they said would account for new technologies, unlike the current law.

"The ruling of the Supreme Judicial Court is contrary to the spirit of the current law," said Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo. "The House will begin work on updating our statutes to conform with today's technology immediately."

Senate President Murray saying she was "stunned and disappointed" by the ruling. Other states have begun adopting new laws to account for modern technologies, especially in cases where existing statutes pose hurdles to prosecution. The Nebraska legislature introduced a bill to ban upskirt photos last month, while California and New York have moved to outlaw revenge porn.

Update: As expected, Governor Patrick signed the bill into law on Friday, according to the New York Post. The law reportedly goes into effect immediately and can punish offenders with a maximum penalty of $5,000 and two-and-a-half years in jail. Those figures double if the subject of the photo is a child.

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