Judge: Lincoln Memorial Upskirt Photographer Didn't Break the Law

Illustration for article titled Judge: Lincoln Memorial Upskirt Photographer Didnt Break the Law

Though many government employees are working to tighten the laws around taking upskirt shots, others, like one judge in our fair nation's capital, are not.

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As WJLA in Washington DC reports, Christopher Cleveland was arrested in June when U.S. Park Police believed he was photographing women inappropriately at the Lincoln Memorial. When they seized his camera, they found numerous photos that matched their concerns; Cleveland had been snapping creepshots up women's skirts as they sat, unsuspecting, on the monument's steps. But in her ruling for Cleveland Thursday, D.C. Superior Court Judge Juliet McKenna found that "the police lacked the required legal grounds to place the Defendant under arrest after observing him taking photographs of women seated or standing in plain and public view." Additionally, "such expectation of privacy is not reasonable in this particular case given the facts presented."

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McKenna continued:

While the Government has repeatedly attempted to characterize this as an "upskirt" case, there is no evidence that the Defendant positioned his camera on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial or otherwise underneath individuals' clothing in order to capture clothed or concealed portions of the body. In fact, there is no evidence that Mr. Cleveland positioned his camera in any way, or employed photographic techniques or illumination, so as to capture images that were not already on public display.

...the pictures Mr. Cleveland took on June 19, 2014 do not capture hidden parts of the body, but rather portions of the body exposed by the individual's voluntary physical positioning and the fit and fabric of the clothing worn.

McKenna did go on to note that, "The fact that the Defendant was intentionally photographing publicly exposed areas of women's clothed and unclothed bodies, including the upper portion of their buttocks, waistband of their underwear and the outline of their buttocks and breasts visible through their clothing, is repellent and disturbing." Repellant and disturbing but not illegal.

Image via Suzanne Koch/Flickr

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DISCUSSION

glanceaskance
GlanceAskance

There's something that needs to be clarified here. This case is not about whether it is or is not illegal to photograph parts of women's bodies which are exposed to the public. This case is about whether the police, who observed this man taking pictures of women in public, had a right to stop him and search the contents of his camera without a warrant. Now, the pictures that turned up certainly indicate that man was engaged in illegal voyeurism (which is defined the opinion). But the court found that there was no evidence presented that the way in which he was taking the pictures would have lead the police to reasonably believe he was engaged in criminal activity.

Obviously, this guy is a criminal. Who is getting off due to a police mistake. But as someone who strongly believes in the constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, I can't be that mad.