Senators push for legislation cracking down on improper photography

Two Texas senators are introducing legislation designed to clarify the law and crack down on improper photography.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled last year that the state's current laws were overly broad and violated free speech.  Now, two senators say they want to revise the law to catch up with technology.

FOX 4's Becky Oliver has been covering the issue. She predicted last year that the issue was headed to the legislature.

It was clear the law was not keeping up with technology -- almost everyone nowadays has a cell phone that's high tech and smaller than ever. As the technology with cell phones has exploded, so have the arrests and the need for clarity in the law.

Mothers of Mesquite cheerleader were outraged last year when a man was arrested, accused of taking improper photos of their daughters. In Dallas, a suspect was also busted at a Target after he was accused of taking pictures under the skirt of a high school student.

Neither man was ever prosecuted.

"The language in this bill has been carefully crafted," said State Sen. Donna Campbell (R). "Perverts who try to take advantage of women and children by taking indecent photos should be thrown in jail..."

Sen. Campbell has one bill; Sen. Jose Menendez, another. They both want to give district attorneys the tools to prosecute these kinds of cases.

"Right now, we have a hole in our law and we are working committed to make sure that we protect children, that we protect women and we'll make sure we protect privacy rights," said Comal County District Attorney Jennifer Tharp.

Across Texas, there has also been a rash of hidden camera cases. A suspect named Andrew Boden didn't want to talk to FOX 4 cameras last year after he was accused of leaving a camera in restaurant restrooms.

His case is currently pending.

In this type of case, there was an expectation of privacy because the recording took place in a restroom.

The senators' bills address the greyer areas, where there isn't that expectation of privacy out in public.

"Little 13-year-old girls should be able to go in a public place and wear their pretty little Easter dress and not be worried about some sick individual taking a camera and taking photos up their dress," said Tharp.

Lawmakers and law enforcement also expressed a sense of urgency because new laws cannot address old conduct. The senators want to move quickly to get a law on the books.

"Right now, there is no criminal recourse," said Patrick Ballantyne, Bexar County Assistant District Attorney. "That needs to change right now."

The two bills are a little different in some of the language, but what they both address are photographing a person's intimate parts, without a person's consent.

The Menendez bill does not address the punishment, but the Campbell bill says if this law is passed, it would make improper photography a state jail felony. If it involves a child under 18, a conviction would be a third degree felony.


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