Crackdown on ‘upskirting’

UNION COUNTY, NJ — New legislation criminalizing ‘upskirting’ — the act of secretly photographing or recording under a person’s clothing — was signed into law last week by the state’s assembly and will fall under New Jersey’s invasion of privacy laws.

The new law, sponsored by Assembly Democrats Cleopatra Tucker, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Annette Quijano, Benjie Wimberly and Gabriela Mosquera, will serve to strengthen the state’s Right to Privacy statute.

The new law prohibits a person from photographing, filming, publishing and sharing the image of the clothed intimate parts of another person without consent and under circumstances in which a reasonable person would not expect to have his or her private body parts observed. The act of recording ‘upskirt’ images or videos is a fourth-degree crime, punishable by imprisonment of up to 18 months and a fine of up to $10,000. Publishing or sharing these images is a third-degree crime, bringing with it a term of imprisonment of three to five years and a fine of up to $15,000. In addition, the law will allow victims to seek civil damages.

The new law would make it illegal for an individual, knowing that he or she is not licensed or privileged to do so, to photograph, film, videotape, record or reproduce in any manner an image of the undergarment-clad intimate parts of another person, without that person’s specific consent and in any circumstance in which a reasonable person would not expect to have their undergarments observed.

The law will also criminalize the disclosure or distribution of any such imagery unless the subject of the image has given their express consent to the disclosure. Individuals convicted of illegal distribution of ‘upskirted’ images would face three to five years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.

Gov. Chris Christie, who signed the bill into law last week, said in a statement that laws such as this are necessary in today’s digital age. “As parents in this highly digital age, we’re always concerned about protecting our children and our privacy, and a big part of doing that is for state criminal laws to keep up with new and emerging technologies,” Christie said. “This new law targets perpetrators of a perverse and growing form of pornography that victimizes vulnerable women and children in a matter of seconds.”

Assemblywoman Tucker told LocalSource that with today’s level of technology, the potential is greater for this kind of invasive and inappropriate behavior. “With all of this technology, I’ve heard of several incidents with young ladies, and then it’s posted on facebook,” said Tucker of ‘upskirting’ imagery. “I see it on the news. I felt that New Jersey should be one of the first states to take a stand.”

Tucker said that many of the incidents are perpetrated by teens, who may not realize the severity of their actions. “Sometimes they may not even realize what they are doing,” said Tucker. “But people need to be responsible for their actions.

With today’s level of technology, most people with cell phones are essentially walking around with an Internet-linked video camera in their pocket at all times. This can lead certain people to assume it is acceptable to ‘document’ whatever they choose, even if it violates someone else’s privacy. We are here today to say that should not, cannot and will not be the case in New Jersey.”

The law now amends the current definition of “disclose” in the state’s invasion of privacy statute to include distribution or sharing via the internet or other digital or electronic means, regardless of whether or not money is involved.

The new law will also clarify that, in addition to criminal penalties, ‘upskirting’ offenses would constitute a civil cause of action, allowing victims to seek actual damages, punitive damages and reasonable attorney’s fees.