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Mass. upskirt photos: Public 'Peeping Tom' pics allowed? Upskirt not a violation

A man taken to a Mass. court over upskirt photos was ruled to have not violated state law since the pictures he took with his cell phone were not partially nude or nude. The highest court in the state of Mass. declared this week that Michael Robertson, called a “Peeping Tom,” would not be charged after being accused of taking unwanted photos under young women’s skirts on the Boston subway system. CBS 12 News reports this Thursday, March 6, 2014, that the controversial ruling has prompted a number of people to appeal to local lawmakers to update the current law.

Upskirt photos on subway system allowed in court
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

It may be hard to accept, but this Mass. upskirt photos case has resulted in a ruling that public pics taken by a Peeping Tom — even those taken under women’s skirts sans their consent — is not illegal if they reveal nothing nude or semi-nude. The state’s Supreme Judicial Court overruled a lesser court this week that was charging Michael Robertson with the 2010 crime. Robertson was discovered by police using his cell phone to take unwanted photos and even video footage of female subway riders’ dresses and skirts.

Since it has since been deemed legal to take these photos as long as they are “G-rated,” the Mass. court’s statement has immediately sparked a public outcry to update the state violation law on this matter. While “Peeping Tom” laws are made to protect all people from being captured on camera or video footage while in private places like bathrooms or dressing rooms when partially nude or nude, they have a significant weak point.

Under current law, the legal processes do not shield people who are clothed and in public areas, even if the photos are undesired or unknowing to the victim — such as was the trouble on the subway in this Mass. upskirt photos court trial.

"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.

The Mass. court continued in its recent declaration that fully clothed persons (even in sensitive areas like under dresses) cannot charge someone if the photos in question do not reveal any nudity.

State law at this time "does not apply to photographing (or videotaping or electronically surveilling) persons who are fully clothed and, in particular, does not reach the type of illegal upskirting that the defendant is charged with attempting to accomplish on the MBTA," the court said.

However, the Supreme Justice Court did note that these actions should be made illegal, but under current written law, they are not. If enough support is rallied, it is likely that these “Peeping Tom” laws will be updated soon to prevent upskirting women or making any other unknowing victims prey to this wrongful crime.