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After ruling, Massachusetts bans ‘upskirt’ photos

March 7, 2014

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill on Friday updating the state’s voyeurism laws, just two days after the state’s highest court ruled that a man who took cellphone photos up the skirts of female subway passengers in Boston wasn’t violating the law as written.

The new law, which takes effect immediately, bans so-called “upskirting” by making it illegal to photograph or videotape the “sexual or other intimate parts” of women or children in public. The law also applies to male victims.

Violators could be punished with up to two-and-a-half years in jail and a $5,000 fine, and the penalties would increase to as much as five years in prison and $10,000 in fines if the victim is under the age of 18.

The Legislature reacted with lightning speed to Wednesday’s unanimous ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court, in which the justices said the state’s existing Peeping Tom law did not apply to the photographing of people who were fully clothed. The decision overruled a lower court that had upheld charges against Michael Robertson, who was arrested by transit police in 2010 after allegedly taking photos and video up the skirts and dresses of female riders.

Patrick said the new law would close the loophole.

A bill was quickly drafted and passed by the House and Senate on Thursday, with lawmakers suspending procedural rules including the normal requirement for a public hearing.

“Not only did we get it done quickly, but I think there was a feeling that we did it right,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo. “We wanted to make sure that this would be a law that would pass all legal questions that could arise.”

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