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March 6, 2014

UPDATE: Mass. Legislature OKs bill outlawing 'upskirt' photos

BOSTON — Massachusetts lawmakers have approved legislation to crack down on those who secretly take photographs of "the sexual or other intimate parts" of women or children in public.

Today's vote in the House and Senate came a day after the state's highest court ruled that a man who took cellphone photos up the skirts of female passengers riding the Boston subway didn't violate state law.

The legislation says anyone who tries to photograph another person's sexual or intimate parts without that person's consent would face a maximum penalty of more than two years in jail and a $5,000 fine. The penalty would jump to five years in prison or a $10,000 fine if the victim is under 18.

Distributing such photos of a child is punishable by a $10,000 fine or 10 years in prison.

State Sen. Kathleen O'Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, said the Senate approved the legislation unanimously.

She said the Legislature needed to act "swiftly" to protect the rights of women. She said the ruling yesterday by the State Supreme Judicial Court was "disappointing and outrageous."

The Massachusetts House earlier approved a bill that would criminalize the secret photographing or videotaping of a person’s “sexual or other intimate parts” in an effort to respond to a high court ruling just a day earlier that found “upskirt” photos to be legal under current decency laws.

The bill (H 3934) makes clear that it does not matter whether the intimate body parts are covered by clothing or undergarments for a perpetrator to be in violation if they attempt to record images when “a reasonable person would believe that the person’s sexual or intimate parts would not be visible to the public.”

Before the bill was approved on a voice vote during a lightly attended session, members of the House Ways and Means Committee were given 15 minutes to read and vote on the proposed legislation.

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