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Mass. High Court: Subway Upskirt Photos Not Illegal

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BOSTON (CBS/AP) – Massachusetts’ highest court has ruled that a man accused of secretly snapping photos up a woman’s skirt on an MBTA train did not break the law.

The State Supreme Judicial Court on Wednesday dismissed charges against Michael Robertson of Andover, who was arrested in August 2010 by Transit Police.

Read: Draft of SJC Decision (.pdf)

Officers had set up a sting on the Green Line after getting reports that Robertson was using his cellphone to take photos and video up female rider’s skirts and dresses.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports

Robertson’s attorneys argued that he was protected by the First Amendment.

So-called Peeping Tom laws protect people from being photographed in dressing rooms and bathrooms when nude or partially nude, but the way the law is written, it does not protect clothed people in public areas, the court said. The SJC ruling went on to suggest that the act in this case should be illegal, noting other states including New York and Florida have explicit laws criminalizing public upskirting.

Under the law, the state has to prove five criteria:

That the defendant willfully photographed, videotaped, or electronically surveilled; the subject was another person who was nude or partially nude; the defendant did so with the intent to secretly conduct or hide his photographing activity; the defendant conducted such activity when the other person was in a place and circumstance where the person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy in not being “so photographed”; and the defendant did so without the other person’s knowledge or consent.

The SJC decision says a woman on the MBTA “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.” (Continued…)

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