Seattle Council Considers Anti-Upskirt Voyeur Legislation

It’s the latest development in an 18 year story.

Tomorrow, the Seattle City Council will consider legislation that would clarify existing law against 21st century Peeping Toms.

At issue is “upskirting”: using lowered cameras to peek up women’s skirts in public places. With the proliferation of internet pornography and cheap, small cameras, upskirting has become a bona fide sexual fetish in recent years.

There’s an 18 year backstory to this legislation, according to council briefing documents. In 1998, Washington passed a voyeurism law that banned photographing or videotaping of unconsenting people for horny purposes, but only in circumstances where they’d have a reasonable expectation of privacy. In 2002 in State v. Glas the state supreme court ruled that that ban didn’t apply in public places. The Seattle and Washington legislatures both responded with their own legislation to explicitly ban upskirting in public.

The legislation under consideration in tomorrow’s Gender Equity, Safe Communities, and New Americans (GESCNA) committee is supposed to “synchronize” those city and state laws. Most significant would be the addition of language to define “reasonable expectation of privacy” as including “circumstances where one may reasonably expect to be safe from casual or hostile intrusion or surveillance.” It would also define the terms “intimate areas,” “photographs,” and “films.”

In 2014, a Microsoft contractor was arrested after losing a tiny camera he’d used to upskirt 93 women, according to the Seattle Times. Earlier this year, a would-be upskirter at Tukwila Value Village was spotted and knocked over by a bystander, according to the Seattle PI.

Update: Wednesday, the GESCNA committee unanimously approved the legislation, which will now go to the full council.

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