‘Peeping Toms’ gain popularity in the courts

Not two months after charges were dropped against an Oklahoma man who took photos up a 16-year-old girl’s skirt while she was shopping at Target, a similar Florida case has been thrown out which charged a man who used a mirror to look under a woman’s skirt at Barnes & Noble:

Defense attorney Katheryne Snowden argued that the voyeurism charge should be dropped because Presken’s accuser didn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place under Florida law.
The law under which Presken was charged states, ‘It is illegal to secretly observe someone with lewd, lascivious and indecent intent in a dwelling, structure or conveyance, and when such locations provide a reasonable expectation of privacy.’

This is the same reason the Oklahoma case was thrown out, in which Appeals Judge Gary Lumpkin wrote in his dissent:

“What this decision does is state to women who desire to wear dresses that there is no expectation of privacy as to what they have covered with their dress. . . In other words, it is open season for peeping Toms in public places who want to look under a woman’s dress.” (Emphasis mine)

Looks like he was right.

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65 Comments

  1. Lou
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    So I guess the judge in this case is saying that us women should just wear burkas and be done with it because other wise we can’t expect privacy of our persons.

  2. Shadow32
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Destra, in the Pensacola case, the issue wasn’t public space (according to the article) but that “reasonable expectation of privacy” wasn’t defined. Frankly I don’t see anything unreasonable in not expecting someone to photograph up a woman’s skirt.
    Unsurprisingly, one of the commenters is explaining this case as a reason virtuous women should wear long dresses (no suggestion of trousers, of course).

  3. Posted May 20, 2008 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Lou, what the judge is saying is more like this:
    “I can only enforce the law as written–doing otherwise is unconstitutional.* And the legislature hasn’t written a law which will permit successful prosecution of this guy’s actions.”
    If you want something to be illegal, you need to make it clearly illegal. And the law needs to exist BEFORE the behavior is committed–you can’t make something illegal after the fact.
    It’s the legislature who dropped the ball here, not the judge.
    *this is confusing for a lot of non lawyers. yes, judges “rewrite” laws all the time, or so it seems. But they don’t do that when it expands the limits of what is illegal, because that is not permitted under a variety of constitutional law and jurisprudence.

  4. Posted May 20, 2008 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Sailorman, putting it that way helps. I can see how it would not work to expand the definition of what is illegal. Thanks for the explaination. Though I am STILL curious about what consitutes “reasonable expectation” of privacy in public. I mean, SERIOUSLY has this NEVER come up in court before this last year or two??? What about 30 years ago when wearing pants was still relatively uncommon for women? It just boggles my mind that this seems to either be the first time this has come up. I would REALLY like to know 1) if this has come up in the past 2) if the outcome was similar/how it was dealt with.

  5. AP
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Just one thing to put out there is that you can talk to places you regularly frequent about enacting policies prohibiting picture taking. I agree with Desra that the problem is not these judges but rather the lack of legislative protections for these things. People should call their legislators and see if their state has or is wroking on better protections. After reading about creepy guys taking pictures with their cameraphones at gyms, I talked to the people at my gym and they immediatley prohibited the use of camera phones (I recognize that my gym may be unusually cool in this regard). It is not enough, certainly, but it makes life a little more comftorable in the meantime.

  6. avast2006
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I was under the impression that “reasonable” was a legitimate legal concept. Juries are asked to determine whether a “reasonable observer” would come to the same conclusion or do the same thing. If Sailorman or somebody has further clarification on that, I’d love to hear it.
    But seriously, what parsing gymnastics allow the judge to come to the conclusion that a woman’s expectation that nobody is allowed to shove a camera up under her clothes is not “reasonable?” WTF?
    By the way, I did not hear anybody say anything about “virtuous women.” It’s merely a matter of practicality. If you don’t want it seen, then cover it. It’s pretty difficult to credibly claim you want it covered when it’s hanging out in plain view. Plain view means an onlooker doesn’t have to do anything overt to create a clear view.
    By the same token, if it is covered, it should be obvious that the owner doesn’t want it seen, so it is wrong to attempt to defeat the covering. That applies even to partial coverings. The fact that a skirt is short is not an invitation to make it even shorter by lifting it or by jockeying for a more advantageous viewing angle.
    Let us not forget, too, that politeness dictates that you look away when something like that happens. But there is a difference between impolite and prosecutable. The guy with a mirror clearly is (or should be) the latter.

  7. CoasttoCoast
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Not to be insensitive, I can see why this is horribly wrong, and hope that the written law is fixed quickly, but I’d LOVE For a judge to tell me that I can’t reasonably expect privacy of my nude body. Cause that sounds like a free ticket for blanket public nudity to me, which would rock. Ability to shed my pants whenever? Yes please.

  8. HoneyBee
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    CoasttoCoast I second that! Although having the courage to do so is another thing… it’s legal to go topless here yet despite my desire to do on occasion so far I haven’t had the guts to actually do it. (Well ok I have, but only in very private settings)

  9. CoasttoCoast
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    honeybee – it’s legal here (Canada, BC) as well, though that hasn’t stopped people from harrassing women who choose to do it. Just this week a female friend of mine was approached by a police officer who told her that she had to put on her top, or she’d be arrested for creating a public disturbance. She asked if what she was doing was illegal, and the officer replied that he had spent 20 minutes on the radio with his supervisor, trying to figure that out.
    You’d think a police officer, with a cruiser full of communications tools, could figure out what is and isn’t illegal.

  10. polishknight
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m reminded of the line attributed to Maurice Chevalier when filming in bed with a starlet: “Pardon me if I get an erection and pardon me if I don’t.”
    Listen, very few men are into this kind of thing and probably few of those are interested in doing it to you. In addition, as pointed out, it’s all about “choice”: Lots of women choose to show off their body parts.
    So this appears to be a case of two parties getting a kick out of each other: The pervert getting a thrill sneaking a peek at some girl’s knickers and women, who will never encounter such a person, getting the thrill out of the power of maybe throwing someone into jail and the attention of being a possible victim.
    This whole discussion makes you look less like empowered women and more like housewives standing up on a table shrieking about a mouse (looking up her skirt.)

  11. ShifterCat
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Wow, way to miss the point, polishknight.
    Let me try to put this into language you might understand.
    If you were walking around a shopping mall butt-naked and someone took a picture of you from a few meters away, you couldn’t legitimately complain. After all, you chose to be showing off your entire body in a public space.
    Now, say you’re wearing loose shorts, because it’s hot out, and browsing in a shop. A larger man sneaks up behind you, places his hand between your legs, and tries to get pictures of your junk.
    Would you not feel creeped out? Would you not feel preyed upon? Would you not feel that your close personal space was invaded, by this person who is large enough to be a threat?
    And then someone sneeringly tells you that inside your shorts can’t be considered a private area, that you should have been flattered by the attention, and really, you chose to show off your junk by wearing those shorts anyway, so you have no right to complain.

  12. FrumiousB
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Sorry you can’t comprehend the difference between exhibitionism and invasion of privacy.
    Looks like the “if you’ve done it in the past, voluntarily or not, you lose the expectation of controlling whether, how, and where it happens again” myth is also alive and well.

  13. polishknight
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    “Now, say you’re wearing loose shorts, because it’s hot out, and browsing in a shop. A larger man sneaks up behind you, places his hand between your legs, and tries to get pictures of your junk.”
    This is an invalid comparison. The POI (Pervert Of Interest) used a passive means of observation while you’re talking about something close to molestation.
    Let’s put this into perspective: Offensive as his behavior was, it wasn’t violent or even intrusive. Anya and Piotrek have more in common with a violent rapist than this poor, pathetic man. These women’s reasoning was that the guy “asked for it”, right? Where have you heard that before…
    In answer to your question, as close as I can make it (say, the man using a mirror to look up my shorts), I would be offended but unharmed. I’ve been in bathrooms before where it was clear men were hanging out and looking at my penis in a urinal stall in a place that, in theory, has “expectations of privacy”. In the past, men beat up gays doing this but now we’re more tolerant.

  14. polishknight
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    “Sorry you can’t comprehend the difference between exhibitionism and invasion of privacy.”
    The very phrase “invasion of privacy” is loaded with the understanding of someone physically infringing upon a person’s private area (such as putting one’s hands between my legs).
    If you leave your curtains open, for example, and some pervert uses a telescope and camera to view you, he hasn’t invaded our privacy even as you consider your home private. You OPENED your “private” space TO THE WORLD! Get it?
    “Looks like the “if you’ve done it in the past, voluntarily or not, you lose the expectation of controlling whether, how, and where it happens again” myth is also alive and well.”
    There is the “reasonable woman” standard in sexual harassment legislation that allows women to demand more sensitivity for their feelings than men based upon previous behavior. I have seen men fight off allegations of sexual harassment when women complained that they were offended by sexist jokes or remarks and it was later revealed that they had regularly engaged in and welcomed such behavior in the past. If you’re not part of the solution, then don’t complain when others are part of the problem.

  15. Undocile
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    Here’s another great one on the same lines. http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20080521/NEWS/805210303
    (Short version: Creeep filmed his minor stepdaughter through the windows of her bedroom. Child porn charges thrown out because he didn’t incite her to pose, just took naked pictures.)

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