State reps work to increase penalties for 'revenge porn'

State Reps. Charles Ferraro (R-117) and Pam Staneski (R-119) supported a proposal to improve the state voyeurism laws by prohibiting the practices of "upskirting" and "revenge porn" and increasing the criminal penalties for voyeurism. The bill passed the House of Representatives 145-0 and now heads to the State Senate.

Ferraro's district consists of Orange, Milford and West Haven. Staneski's district are the towns of Orange and Milford.

The legislation was proposed to address an inadequacy in state law after a recent state of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case found “upskirting" was not prohibited by that state's voyeurism laws. The bill looks to address, define and criminalize what the news media has referred to as “upskirting.” Upskirting is a term referring to photographing the view up a woman's skirt.

“This creepy practice of upskirting violates a woman’s rights to privacy and should be considered a crime against her person,” said Ferraro, a member of the Public Safety and Security committee.

Disseminate is defined as “means to sell, give, provide, lend, trade, mail, deliver, transfer, publish, distribute, circulate, present, exhibit, advertise or otherwise offer.”

Under existing law, a person commits voyeurism when they knowingly photograph, film, videotape, or record the victim's image; acts maliciously or intends to satisfy their or another's sexual desire; and when the victim is not in plain view, has a reasonable expectation of privacy under the circumstances, and does not know of, or consent to, the conduct.

“The dissemination of ‘revenge porn’ is a violation of the victim’s privacy even though they may have consented to or shared intimate photos during an intimate relationship. Sadly, if the relationship ends poorly, those intimate photos may later be used to embarrass or harass the victim. The victim needs to feel protected against such a vengeful act,” said Staneski.

Voyeurism is currently a class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

Under the new legislation voyeurism would become a class C felony when (1) the victim is under age 16 or (2) it is a subsequent voyeurism conviction or the offender has a prior conviction of: 1) risk of injury to a minor involving sexual contact with a child under age 16; 2) 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree sexual assault; 1st degree aggravated sexual assault; 3rd degree sexual assault with a firearm; or sexual assault in a spousal or cohabiting relationship; 3) enticing a minor, promoting a minor in an obscene performance, or importing child pornography; or 4) 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree possessing child pornography.

By law, a class C felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

Finally, the bill designates committing these new types of voyeurism as a “nonviolent sexual offense” subject to 10-years sex offender registration but allows the court to exempt a person from registration if it is not required for public safety. As under current law, lifetime registration is required for someone who commits a subsequent nonviolent sexual offense or a crime designated as a “criminal offense against a victim who is a minor.”