Upskirting Outlawed in Maryland

DC’s NPR station (WAMU) this morning featured a report on a nationwide trend to outlaw a practice known as “upskirting.”

Maryland is about to join in.

One of the bills awaiting Governor Ehrlich’s signature would prohibit so-called “upskirting” – secretly photographing a person’s private parts with a strategically-placed hidden camera. People who snap upskirt photos typically use tiny cameras hidden in everyday objects like briefcases, or the small cameras on cell phones. Victims don’t even know they’ve been photographed, and the pictures are often posted on the Internet.

Ehrlich is expected to sign the bill. Forty-five states have already approved similar laws.

Baltimore’s WJZ adds:

Upskirt Photo WJZ Maryland A new law that would prohibit people from snapping photographs of a person’s private parts through their clothing in a concealed manner referred to as “upskirting” or “downblousing” awaits Governor Robert Ehrlich’s signature of approval.

“Upskirting” has become a major part of the online pornography industry, but most of the “stars” of the sites are women who were really victims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and likely don’t even know they’ve been photographed.

People who snap upskirt or downblouse photos typically use tiny cameras hidden in everyday objects like briefcases, or the small cameras on cell phones. But believe it or not, such picture taking is actually legal because it’s happening in a public domain.

Howard County Delegate Neil Quinter wanted that to be changed, and he set forth a bill to make it illegal to take upskirt or downblouse photographs. “This bill makes it illegal to take a photo or video of the person’s private areas without their consent whether it occurs in a public or private place,” Quinter tells WJZ’s Mike Schuh.

While I was vaguely aware of the practice, I had no idea that “upskirting” even existed as a verb. Let alone that 44, soon 45, states outlawed the practice. Apparently, though, it is a real problem. A case from Maryland reported earlier this month exemplifies the trend:

A Boy Scout counselor was arrested at Arundel Mills mall Friday night on charges he stuck his cell phone under a bathroom stall door and took a picture of an 8-year-old boy. County police said Andrew Malone Gipson, 32, had a folder on his camera phone called “Bathroom Boy” when he was arrested. The 8-year-old’s picture was in the folder, according to charging documents filed in District Court.

Mr. Gipson, of the Prince George’s County section of Laurel, was being held this morning on $30,000 bond and was expected to have a judge review that amount this afternoon. He’s charged with two misdemeanors: taking a photo in a private place with prurient intent, which carries a maximum of a year in jail, and being a peeping Tom, which carries 30 days in jail.

[…]

Such invasive photography has raised concerns in recent years, with the rise of cell phone cameras. Del. Neil F. Quinter, D-Howard, has sponsored a bill the past two years to ban so-called “upskirting” or “downblousing,” in which people take pictures in public places but violate people’s privacy. But the kind of picture Mr. Gipson is accused of taking is already illegal, since people undressing in a bathroom have an expectation of privacy, even in a public place like a mall, while women sitting on a bench, for example, don’t under the current law.

Here’s a case from the Los Angeles area:

Police have arrested a man for allegedly taking inappropriate or “upskirting” pictures of little girls in the pony ride area of Griffith Park. Investigators are hoping to identify the alleged victims. One of the alleged victims is 9 to 11 years old, with blond hair and blue eyes. She was wearing a dress decorated with fairies, mushrooms, butterflies and dragonflies, according to reports. Broadcast reports identify the other child as being about 5-years-old with cornrows, wearing a burgundy velvet dress and black cowboy boots with white stitching.

Police say Sergio Martin Perez, 52, of Highland Park has been charged with four misdemeanors in connection with taking more than 200 pictures of girls while they played in the pony ride area of Griffith Park. The pony ride operator told reporters he saw Perez blatantly trailing several girls at the popular attraction on Jan. 28. The ride operator made a citizen’s arrest. He called polce who later seized Perez’s camera and found photographs, which included the girls’ midsections, undergarments and genital areas.

Perez is charged with one count each of child annoying, “upskirting,” which is using a concealed camera to photograph someone’s body or undergarments for sexual gratification, sexual exploitation of children and possession of child pornography, according to Deputy City Attorney Lara Schwartz. If Perez is convicted of any of the counts — except upskirting — he would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Presumably, though, most of the cases involve grown women, since the market for child pornography is (one would certainly imagine) dwarfed by that for more “normal” prurient interests. While invading an adult’s privacy in this manner and posting said photos on the Web should indeed be criminalized, one would hope that the penalties would be much more severe in cases involving children.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Eddie Thomas says:

    “Investigators are hoping to identify the alleged victims. One of the alleged victims is 9 to 11 years old, with blond hair and blue eyes.”

    Prosecuting these pornographers is the right thing to do, but trying to locate the subjects of these photographs strikes me as more harmful than the photographs themselves. I would be mad as hell if the police were to notify my daughter that she had been secretly photographed like this. Can’t they prosecute without having to produce a specific victim?

  2. floyd says:

    when was the last time you saw a woman in a skirt??