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Voyeurism law gets favorable report by Senate Judiciary Committee

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to make the taking of a video or photo depicting intimate areas of a person without that person’s consent a crime.  The voyeurism bill, Senate Bill 57, is sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville.

Chambliss told the committee that the need for the bill was demonstrated after two situations in his district.  In both, a man came up behind a woman and then held his camera phone under the her skirt and took photos without the consent of the women.  The police arrested both men and charged them, but the judge threw both cases out saying that the law does not specifically say that this is illegal in Alabama.

Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, said that in his district one of his constituents was told that there were pictures of her on adult web sites.  An investigation revealed that an individual had place a small camera that looked like a pen in a cup holder on the woman’s desk in her office.  When she changed clothes to go to the gym, the camera recorded it.

The perpetrator then uploaded those photos to adult web sites.  Williams said that he found that taping people’s conversations without their consent is a more serious offense than filming them without their consent is. Videotaping without consent is currently just a Class B misdemeanor.

The Judiciary Committee is chaired by state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster.  Ward said, “We can’t keep up with technology.”

Ward proposed an amendment to the bill.  The original Chambliss bill was limited to distributing the video.  Sen. Ward said that they should strike distribute; because just doing it at all should be illegal, “Whatever weird intentions you have.” “The amendment strengthens the bill.”

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Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, asked, “What if I am on a beach and someone was playing on a beach in a thong?”

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Ward thought that would not apply as there is no expectation of privacy out in public.

Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, said that teen boys will sometimes put mirror on their shoes to see under girls skirts and that she did not want to see a juvenile punished for life for some foolish prank.

Ward said that if a 17 year old takes inappropriate photos of a 12 year old there should be penalities but that this law would not apply to juveniles.

Coleman-Madison said that there are a lot of juveniles in with the general population who were trialed as adults.

Ward said, “That is for rape and murder,” this would not apply to them.

The legal analyst for the Alabama Law Institute said that a juvenile would not be on a sex offender list for that and that even if an adult committed this crime it would depend on his motivation.  To be a sex offender the court would have to rule that there was a sexual motivation involved and the district attorney would have to ask the court to make that determination.

The bill received a unanimous vote for favorable report and now goes on to the full Senate.

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