New law makes ‘offensive’ nonconsensual public photos illegal


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — New legislation is aimed at those who take “embarrassing” or “offensive” photos of others without their consent and for sexual arousal or gratification purposes.

Courts have ruled people in public do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, but there’s an effort to change that.

David Eric Lambert was originally found guilty after taking close up photos of women in Kingsport stores in 2016. An appeals court reversed the conviction ruling “governing unlawful photography was unconstitutionally vague,” and his conduct “did not constitute a crime.”

Representative John Crawford, (R) – District 1, sponsored the new law that addresses offensive photos taken in public. “We’ve actually had people, who have actually walked up to women in say a Walmart or something like that, and just blatantly take pictures of their rear ends in shorts, or they may have a blouse on that shows some cleavage, and they just actually take the picture not trying to hide it in any way.”

Senate Bill 331 tries to make taking those kinds of nonconsensual photos of others illegal – again.

“That’s what we’re trying to do with this bill is to address those things where people are blatantly taking those pictures of intimate areas for sexual gratification,” Crawford said. “You know they’re taking this picture trading them on the internet and stuff for child porn, this that and the other.”

The new law, which tries to close loopholes, faces an uphill battle if it’s challenged in court.

“There are some clear constitutional questions at issue in the statute, specifically, first amendment questions,” said Vanderbilt Law professor G.S. Hans.

Hans added courts are looking for very clear standards, especially, when it comes to free speech protections.

“There’s a few things, I think that are at issue in this case that are particularly relevant. First is that it is a criminal law, which the court when it comes to criminalizing speech is going to be particularly concerned if there’s a first amendment challenge,” he said.

From stalking to harassment laws, lawyers argued lawmakers may want to look at adding and strengthening what’s lawfully on the books.

Hans said, “There are alternatives methods of trying to prevent this kind of behavior. I don’t think people think that this behavior is good.”

Crawford said, “We won’t know until one of these cases comes up that actually ends up in a court case and then it’s appealed to the next court all the way up to the supreme court.”

Crawford added changing society laws and governing advancing technology is important to get right. “We’re just trying to get caught up with the technology where we’re at, and put laws in place that protects our citizens and make sure that they’re privacy is protected.”

The new law takes effect in Tennessee July 1st. Violation of the law is generally a class A misdemeanor.

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