The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a male employee at a supermarket who followed a female customer around the store, using his cellphone to film video up her skirt. Judge Elizabeth Branch and five of her colleagues found that due to a “gap” in state law, “upskirting” is completely legal in Georgia.
It is regrettable that no law currently exists which criminalizes [the appellant’s] reprehensible conduct,” Branch wrote.
In security footage from the Publix store where the incident occurred, Brandon Lee Gary can be seen following the woman through the store. He repeatedly crouches down behind her to aim the camera on his cellphone up her skirt as she shopped. He did this a minimum of four times. After catching him on the floor behind her numerous times, she finally got fed up and walked out of the store. Later, she returned to voice her complaints to the manager of the store. Gary later confessed to the police that he had indeed been shooting upskirt videos of the woman.
A local judge found Gary guilty of criminal invasion of privacy, ruling that “there’s no more blatant invasion of privacy than to do what [Gary] did.” In the appeal, however, the court took a closer look at whether his actions were actually a violation of the state’s invasion-of-privacy law. Under the current statute in the state of Georgia, “any person, through the use of any device, without the consent of all persons observed, to observe, photograph, or record the activities of another which occur in any private place and out of public view.”
In a 6-3 decision, the appeals court found that the area under a woman’s skirt did not qualify as a “private place.” Using dictionary definitions, the court decided that the “place” in question was the supermarket and not the space under a woman’s clothing. Therefore, the videos were taken in a public place, making Gary’s perversion completely legal.
Judge Amanda Mercier wrote an angry dissent, blasting her fellow judges’ decision. She argued that a “private place” should absolutely include parts of a person’s body that are “out of public view” and are expected to be “safe from casual or hostile intrusion or surveillance.”
We have decades of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence setting forth limitations on law enforcement’s ability to merely pat down an alleged suspect on top of their clothing to protect the sacrosanct bodily privacy of even those who are accused of violating criminal laws,” Mercier wrote. “But today, with the stroke of a pen, we are in effect negating the privacy protections from the intrusions of fellow citizens.
Georgia isn’t alone in its decision to consider women’s body’s to be public property and make “upskirting” a-okay in the eyes of the law. Courts in Massachusetts, Oregon, Texas, and the District of Columbia have all handed down similar rulings.
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