Victory for camera pervs: Court rules state law doesn't prohibit taking photos up women's skirts on the T

The Supreme Judicial Court today tossed charges against a Green Line rider caught snapping photos up the skirts of female Green Line riders in 2010.

In its ruling, the state's highest court said the law used to prosecute Michael Robertson applies only to "nude" or "partially nude" women in private locations, such as bedrooms, not to clothed women - even women with no undergarments - in public places such as the T.

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. ...

[B]ecause the MBTA is a public transit system operating in a public place and uses cameras, the two alleged victims here were not in a place and circumstance where they reasonably would or could have had an expectation of privacy.

The court said maybe women riding on the T should be protected against strangers pointing phone cameras at their crotches from Green Line stairs, but that the legislature would have to make that explicit:

At the core of the Commonwealth's argument to the contrary is the proposition that a woman, and in particular a woman riding on a public trolley, has a reasonable expectation of privacy in not having a stranger secretly take photographs up her skirt. The proposition is eminently reasonable, but § 105 (b ) in its current form does not address it.

Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley, whose office had brought the charges against Robertson, and which argued even people in public have certain privacy rights, says he will seek immediate legislation to make Robertson's behavior illegal:

Every person, male or female, has a right to privacy beneath his or her own clothing. If the the statute as written doesn’t protect that privacy, then I’m urging the Legislature to act rapidly and adjust it so it does.



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    Even I think this is a terrible ruling, and I can't even get the trains to run. #MBTA

    No, the ruling is correct, it's the law that's broken.

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    The court has perfectly reasonably interpreted and ruled on this very UNreasonable law.

    The ruling is spot on. The law that the ruling is based on is terrible.

    Don't mistake bad lawmaking for bad judging, the court did exactly what it gets paid to do. It's not their fault they have to uphold the stupid laws someone else writes.

    Do NOT complain that the court should have ruled differently. Complain that we don't have any laws to prosecute this behavior.

    Are there any laws against

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    Are there any laws against sexual harassment of strangers in public?

    If there are, could this guy be charged with them at this point? Or did the prosecution permanently screw up the case by charging him with the wrong crime?


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    And nobody had a printer available??

    Live by the technicality, die by the technicality.

    Actually, we should complain loud and strong

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    that the SJC ruled the way they did. The court's ruling demonstrates exactly what is wrong with our legal system. In this case, the judges took the easy way out by using the "Greg Brady" approach (i.e. "those weren't your exact words") and let this guy off, even though the evidence supported the fact that he committed what a reasonable person would consider to be unjustifiable and indefensible behavior. However, had the SJC taken the time and used a bit of common sense and logic, they would have realized that "upskirting" is exactly the type of perverted behavior that the law in question was intended to prevent, even if the activity in question is not specifically addressed in said law.

    Had they done the latter, such an action on their part would have been (IMHO) a proper way for an appellate court to interpret the law, especially in this day and age where technology is rapidly changing. Especially where no evidence was given refuting the claims that the pervert took the photographs.

    And for the "we have no laws to prosecute this behavior" argument, do we really want to live in such a micro-managed society where "well, the law doesn't specifically state you can do that, so it's legal - even if it infringes on other's rights ("upskirting" certainly falls into this category) or results in injury or death to others (think eating behind the wheel and causing a crash).

    Do you also complain about "activist judges"?

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    Because more obvious interpretations of the legal phrasing of passed legislation have been the whipping boy of conservative commentators crying afoul about "activist judges". But here, we have a panel of judges unwilling to interpret hidden meaning into words that explicitly state what is made illegal and they are said to have taken the "easy way out".

    Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

    do we really want to live in

    do we really want to live in such a micro-managed society where "well, the law doesn't specifically state you can do that, so it's legal

    You know, I sort of think I do. I'd rather live in a society where the law states, unambiguously, what is illegal, and if it doesn't, it's legal. That way I know whether I'm breaking the law or not, and I'm not at the mercy of some cop or judge who gets to decide whether he likes my face or not.

    This may be the most

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    This may be the most ridiculous court ruling I've ever seen.

    People can pearl clutch all

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    People can pearl clutch all they want, but lets face it. Whether you are wearing booty shorts or walking around in your underwear or simply not wearing underwear, it is legal for people to take pictures of you in public. You don't want people to take pictures of your vagina? Don't put it on display. Seems simple enough. I don't condone the photographers actions, but clearly the law is on his side here


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    You see a lot of naked women on the T, do ya?


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    I'm sure he's got reams of slobbering bodice-ripper fantasyfan fiction written all about it.

    What do think goes on during

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    You see a lot of naked women on the T, do ya?

    What do think goes on during train breakdowns, Adam? Things get really wild in the cars, dude.

    When I'm out in public

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    When I'm out in public wearing a skirt, my vagina is not on display. Just because I'm wearing a skirt is not a license for some perv to try to position his phone in order to see up said skirt. If I'm wearing a shirt that shows cleavage, can he then shove his phone down my bra?

    "shove his phone down my bra?"

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    If I'm wearing a shirt that shows cleavage, can he then shove his phone down my bra?

    I would suspect that the scenario you describe would run afoul of some other law.

    That wasn't the question here though. The court was asked to rule on the appropriateness of said law to the prosecution of this individual, not to make pronouncements about the expectations of privacy on the T.

    Oh, I'm not clutching my pearls

    I'm lacing up my steel-toes. This isn't about what is on display - this is about intrusive use of technology.

    Don't want your hand broken and your electronic device stomped? Don't stick it under a skirt.


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    Most adults can distinguish between a metaphor and an idle threat. But then there's you.

    Sounds like somebody is concerned!

    When the law didn't take groping seriously, a certain 17 year old female climbing the BU Bridge stairs found it expedient to kick her groper down two flights as a lesson in not touching people without permission.

    Similarly, when the T didn't do shit about grabbers and gropers, a certain 34-year old female riding the green line stomped a frotteur's forefoot with a spike heel, causing said perv to limp painfully off at the next stop.

    The point is, for the confounded, that women will resort to protecting themselves in less lady-like ways than filing police reports if they can't rely on the rule of law.


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    I once kicked a person in the bum, and I need to get the last word in at all times! can I be cool like you?

    Mom Jeans

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    I think it's time for "Mom jeans", or maybe baggy sweatpants, all around Boston for women who must commute, as a safety precaution until such a time as we have recourse against creeps with cameras.

    anon (not verified) on Wed,

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    anon (not verified) on Wed, 03/05/2014 - 11:48am wrote:

    You don't want people to take pictures of your vagina? Don't put it on display.

    Stay away from girls and women with your camera you sick pervert! I hope someone beats the crap out of you the next time they see you taking a pic up a female's skirt.

    Don't want people to take

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    Don't want people to take pictures of any part of you? Don't leave your house to be a functional human being.

    Pregnancy doesn't help

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    I had more men leer at my boobs when I was preggers than at any other time in my life. There's no safe way to be female in public!

    Typical victim shaming.

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    Typical victim shaming. Women wear skirts - how is that putting your business on display? While the loophole on this law needs to be changed TODAY just know if you or someone else puts your camera under my skirt OR if you are under the stairs taking pictures of my business please know I will rip your d**k off and shove where the sun don't shine. Then I will probably be arrested for assault but so be it.

    Also, if anyone happens to witness this type of behavior how about coming to the persons rescue? How about speaking up? Say something!

    So this means men using restrooms are also fair game?

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    Gay men take pictures of men in rest rooms all the time and post them. So this is not legal in Boston? See how the shoe can end up on the other foot? I mean they are fully clothed in the rest room with their penis on display. Gay men can have a field day and will.

    Yes, the gay men are coming for you

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    Unfortunately for your throbbing manhood that you secretly know all gay men want, the governor today signed the bill to outlaw this sort of thing. So your virtue will remain intact.

    Guess the shoe's on the other hand now, eh?

    The court doing exactly what we pay it to do

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    This ruling illustrates the court doing exactly what we pay it to do: interpret the law. We do not pay it to produce "good outcomes" for us. One perv gets off? That's the small price we pay to live in a country of laws and not whim. Now that the Supreme Judicial Court has issued this ruling, I expect the General Court to get to work and fix things.


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    People need to get over the fact that wrong and illegal are not the same thing. You can't be prosecuted by the state for something that isn't explicitly made illegal, no matter how wrong it is. It should not be a hard sell to amend that very statute in the legislature to include upskirt photography.

    I guess I don't understand

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    I guess I don't understand how "wearing clothes in public" = "no reasonable expectation of privacy as regards the parts of me covered by the clothes". If I'm showing my tattoo and someone takes a pic, then fine. But if it's covered by my shirt, I feel I should have a reasonable expectation of nobody trying to maneuver around my clothes to see said tattoo.


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    Its the "as regards the parts of me covered by the clothes" part. That is not how privacy is defined by law.


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    I guess that's where you have to determine what "reasonable" is. If you're seated across from me on the T and I can see all the way to your panties because of how you've chosen to sit, then are you showing a reasonable expectation of privacy given the situation?

    Of course, that plays the other way as well. For if you're standing on the platform and I have to glue a camera to my shoe and slip it between your feet in order to see the same thing, then I find that a situation where you reasonably don't expect people essentially laying on the ground between your feet in order to take pictures of you in public.

    I don't particularly think it should be so easy for people to freely take pictures of other people's crotches in public, even if they have found themselves in a compromising situation. Another example of this, besides MBTA panty shots, is up-crotch shots of celebrities getting into/out-of vehicles. I wouldn't care if that was outlawed in MA either.

    But I do think we have to be careful about "reasonable" expectations and how we codify that into the law.


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    Pepper spray the pervert in the face. Vile.

    Sure. Go to the store and buy some.

    That is after you go to to the police station, fill out the FID form, pay your $25.00, wait a few weeks for the FID to arrive, then finally buy pepper spray.

    Don't forget, the perv won't be the only person to get hit with this stuff on a train.


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    Another typical ruling by liberal Massachusetts judges. Is it any wonder, every other state in the Union views this state as a haven for kooks and pervs? Now, how about hurrying up that taxpayer funded sex change operation for the convicted wife killer in prison? He/she has been waiting far too long. Or is it already a done deal?

    Probably a lost cause

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    But if you read the decision, you'll see, as others have already noted, the justices were NOT saying they're fine with upskirting. They ARE saying the law used to prosecute the guy is a pre-cell-phone relic and should be updated by the state legislature.

    I realize the rule of law is unfashionable among the pro-Putin set, but the rest of us still appreciate that we are a nation of laws and realize that if you don't like a law, the legislative branch of government is where to go to try to change things.

    the law

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    So then how do we get the law updated? I can call my state rep, but a concerted campaign might be more useful. Have you heard of anyone starting one yet?

    No petition needed.

    The legislature is already all over this. Fixing something that everyone agrees was a mistake in the law doesn't require petition drives; it'll just happen.

    Folks, this is *exactly* the way the system is supposed to work.

    1. Everyone agrees that pervs taking upskirt photos is a bad thing
    2. Turns out, there was no law prohibiting it, but nobody had noticed.
    3. Police caught a guy taking upskirt photos; noticed that there was no law specifically against it; charged him under a different law that was a near miss.
    4. Court system said, "nuh-uh, can't do that."
    5. Within days, we'll have a law that prohibits upskirt photos.

    What, exactly is the horrendous travesty of justice here? That one guy got off because nobody had yet got around to making what he did illegal?

    The decision also notes that

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    The decision also notes that the Legislature considered amendments to correct this very flaw in the last session but did not pass them. And the court also cites specific language from other states that the Legislature could enact to fix this promptly/

    Interesting footnote

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    The last one, no less. Now, I'm no lawyer, but I don't think the bills the justices referred to would have mattered in this case. While the bills (House version, Senate version) would have replaced the idea of partial nudity with a reference to an "intimate area ... whether naked or covered by undergarments," they kept the concept of limiting the photographs to "such place and circumstance would have a reasonable expectation of privacy in not being so photographed, videotaped or electronically surveilled, and without that person's knowledge and consent."

    Another typical ruling by

    Another typical ruling by liberal Massachusetts judges.


    Need attention?

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    Scratchie, we're you trying to get our attention with all your upper case letters?


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    Oh! I didn't know that. How creative and clever you are...

    Amuse us thewn

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    Instead you amuse the rest of us by thinking you are so clever.

    every other state in the

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    every other state in the Union views this state as a haven for kooks and pervs

    no, they don't.

    Yes, they do..

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    Um, yes, they do. I travel all over this country for a living. I hear it constantly from people of all walks of life and of every age group. It's unfortunate, but the rest of the country thinks our state is a nut farm.

    Shame, that.

    Yup, relative to other states, Massachusetts has higher income, a higher percentage of kids finishing high school and going on to college, a higher percentage of residents with college degrees, a lower than average level of teen pregnancy, a lower than average level of divorce, a lower than average level of obesity, on the whole OK crime stats, and middle-of-the-pack tax burden.

    Sucks the way kooky liberals have effed up the state, eh?

    Public and private

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    Have different meanings in different uses of the law. So, for example, a Target would legally be considered private property as in, "Target can kick people out at their judgment even if they are not breaking the law." However, a Target would be considered public in, "A person has no reasonable expectation of privacy while in public view.

    So if Gisele went to Somerville Target to buy tampons and condoms, she'd have no right to privacy in public and anyone could take pictures of her buying tampons and condoms. But Target could kick out the paparazzi following her around as she bought tampons and condoms even if they were not breaking the law, because Target could deem that as disruptive and inappropriate for their store.

    Sexist ruling

    The court should have been more inclusive, recognizing men wearing kilts who may or not be wearing undergarments.

    Media squeaks get the grease.

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    If we could get legislators to move as fast to correct the shortcomings of laws affecting transportation infrastructure finance as they will move to correct the shortcomings of the law at issue in this case, then we'd really be on our way into the 21st Century.

    If the law

    was different perhaps the defendant would have ended up in prison where he would demand an operation to become a she.

    Is it legal to take 'upskirt'

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    Is it legal to take 'upskirt' photos of the folks at Boston City Archives while they (are/aren't) collecting the plain text full Stenographic Record of the Public Meetings of Boston City Council?

    There is no "peeping Tom" law in MA.

    If I go on your property and look in your window at night, I'm really only committing the crime of disorderly conduct. The same crime used for various other random acts (fighting, yelling, annoying people, walking in traffic, etc)

    It still carries a 6 month prison term (max). Seems like enough punishment for cell phone upskirt tomfoolery. No need to chage the other law which was intended for people who set up hidden cameras in bathrooms and the like.

    Edit: I should clarify and say that the photography aspect is what make this law relevant. If someone were to photograph someone nude or partially nude in their own house, this law would apply. But if they weren't nude, or the person wasn't photographing, disorderly conduct should be fine.

    All it takes is a botched lawsuit?

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    So, within 24 hours of the publicity around the "upskirting" allowance in the law, DeLeo will have a bill on Deval's desk for signature that will close the nutty loophole that let someone off the hook.

    So, all we need is a major catastrophe at the MBTA where the publicity embarrasses the State House into acting to fix its horrendous Forward Funding contrivance that bankrupt the MBTA to the point that people died due to faulty equipment that could no longer be maintained correctly...