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Through Jerse’s 2000 “Upskirt” Law, Ohio Avoids Massachusetts Dilemma

4/9/2014, 9:44 a.m.

Last Friday, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill updating the state’s voyeurism laws two days after the state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a man who took photos up women’s skirts on a subway did not violate current law because the clothed victims were not “nude” or “semi-nude.” The development comes fourteen years after Ohio adopted a bill sponsored by then-State Representative Ed Jerse (D-Euclid) addressing a similar situation.

Jerse introduced his bill, enacted in 2000, after a man tried to videotape up the skirt of constituent Gina Bell as she waited with her child for a carnival ride at a local church festival. “Ohio’s existing voyeurism laws, like those of Massachusetts, focused on victims who were nude or semi-nude,” said Jerse. “There was a loophole in the case of “upskirting,” where the victims were clothed, but it still, obviously, was a major violation of that person’s privacy.”

Jerse’s bill made it a crime to secretly film under or through a person’s clothing to view the body or undergarments of that person. It did not require that the act be done for “sexual gratification” as a person intending to post the photos on the internet might claim other motivations. “We needed to catch up with new technology and actions being promoted by the internet,” said Jerse. “It looks like we were almost fourteen years ahead of Massachusetts in taking this step.”

Jerse, an attorney who is running for the State Senate, pointed to his bill as a reason more attorneys are needed in the General Assembly. “There was a gap in the law and an attorney is trained not only to understand the loophole, but to craft a response that anticipates and accounts for that and other potential loopholes.”