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2.21.2011

For years I've griped about a statute in Texas called "Unlawful Photography". Apparently, some judges aren't to fond of it either as this opinion begins:




Before MORRISS, C.J., CARTER and MOSELEY, JJ.

OPINION

Opinion by Justice CARTER.

In the 50s, before the advent of video cameras and cell phone videos, a popular song advised us that standing on the corner and watching females pass by was acceptable conduct and that "you can't go to jail for what you're thinking." Watching may still be acceptable conduct, but recording that parade may violate the law in Texas today.

William Allen Cooper was convicted by a jury of an offense entitled Improper Photography or Visual Recording. The offense is a state jail felony, and on two counts, he was sentenced to the maximum punishment: two years in a state jail facility on each prosecution and a $10,000.00 fine. See TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 21.15 (Vernon Supp. 2010).

I. Issues on Appeal

* * * 
[T]he statute criminalizes the act of photographing/recording a visual image of another at a location not a bathroom or private dressing room without that person's consent, and with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.

II. Facts

Cooper was convicted for making video recordings (shot through a window) of females walking down the sidewalk, or down the street, in front of either his home or business. The subjects were fully clad and were not in a private area. We have duplicates made by the State of the only two tapes involved, containing several hours of video, which the State edited into a short "best of" video for the jury's perusal. All of these were introduced into evidence and made available to the jury. The videographer used the zoom function on the camera at various times to obtain close-ups of specific parts of female anatomy. Those close-ups are what the State relies upon to prove intent—the statute requires the video to have been made with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of a person. The State argues that this choice of subject matter would allow a jury to find the requisite intent, and counsel does not argue to the contrary.

Incredible. You can be convicted of photographing the opposite sex as they walk down the street in public.

The Court reversed his conviction because although there was evidence that the tape was filmed from inside his property, there was no evidence that he was the one who did the filming. If they had been able to prove that, it looks like he would have been headed to jail for two years. (And for that level of offense, there is no early parole.)

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Overcriminalization. The legislature loves to pass into law any and every suggestion for stricter criminal penalties and new categories of crime. This is the reason we have such a high percentage of our population in prison, compared with all other nations in the world.

Anonymous said...

Guys if he had not done those zoom in on the female goodie parts, I would have been okay with it. But he had to go be a naughty boy, so he broke the law, even though they couldn't prove he did the filming. Shame on the pervert. Too bad he got away with it.

Anonymous said...

Pervert? Obviously the women are wearing outfits that show the femaile parts. Bet none were wearing turtlenecks.

Anonymous said...

Does that render security cameras unlawful? what about the security guard at the mall that masturbates furiously to the footage? How is it illegal to film something that it's perfectly legal to look at. How is what you see you outside your own window off limits for cameras? I don't get it. There's not logic to this at all?

Anonymous said...

"Much ado about nothing!"

DF Walter Cronkite

Anonymous said...

How much of the taxpayers money has been wasted on this? Aren't there real problems that need to be solved? It scares me to think of what kind of people we have running this country.

Anonymous said...

Can a woman legally walk around in public - shirtless with her boobies exposed, like a dude?

Anonymous said...

5:08 That's a pretty silly statement. The reason we have more criminals in prison is because of a society that refuses to hold people fittingly accountable and a section of which actually glorifies the criminal lifestyle. If the punishment actually fit the crime it would be a deterrent in and of itself and we'd see the numbers go down. When you have convicted murderers getting out of prison in less than five years, you don't have an "overcriminalization". It's WAY bigger than that.

Anonymous said...

5:08 (continued) but you'd be correct in regards to this law. It's a joke of a law passed by a knee-jerk reaction.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you 6:19

Anonymous said...

Were drugs or alcohol involved?

Anonymous said...

That pretty well eliminates the Random Thought for the day ... aren't you being an accessory after the fact by publishing such photos?

Anonymous said...

It's sad that people with the disease of alcoholism or drug addiction are put in prison if they didn't commit a violent crime while under the influence. Sure they dry out, but they are surrounded by violent criminals and it isn't rehabilitating. Drugs are just a symptom of a deeper problem that counseling would serve better. Probation officer's and jail don't counsel anyone, problem not solved. I'm not talking about violence that may involve alcohol.
The Wise County jail doesn't even have any alcohol or drug programs for their incarcerated and I'd like to know why?
Perhaps bar owners should be the ones in jail for serving people more than two drinks that drove to their establishment's.
Convinence stores can sale rolling papers legally, but you can be arrested for possession of drug paraphnelia (papers). I just don't get it.
You can't even talk to an inmate without it costing you $7.00 for the first minute. It's all about the money their making off of unfortunate mistakes. Too bad some of the money being made isn't going to rehabilitation, counseling...
A monthly reporting fee would be better spent if they were taking off work to see a counselor instead of a probation officer. After all the judicial fee's who can afford the counseling and most can't make it on probation unless they have family or friends that can help pay for nothing but hello here I am I wasn't arrested this month and I had to take off work to come and tell you that.
For the person that is always asking were alcohol or drugs involved, alcohol is a drug also.

Anonymous said...

Put drug and alcohol education in the schools, show them what they will be doing to their brains and what is used to make ice, meth, pcp...Create films that show some in their childhood years vs after doing drugs.
Cigarettes are also a drug. Nicotene is more addicting than heroin. You can buy them and smoke as many packs as you can afford. People aren't arrested for nicotene addiction. Oh yeah their already making tons of money legally on the ciggs and killing you also.

Anonymous said...

The twenkies are killing people too. We are an addictive, gotta have it now society. What ever the addition is it is going to happen without will power and help. Some just cannot get past it.

Anonymous said...

What does "zoom in" mean? If I take a picture of a person 100 yards away using a powerful zoom lens, and capture their full body that just happens to include an awesome view of a rear end or something...jail time? How about arresting news reporters who do a story on obesity and film by zooming in, unwanted, on people with fat butts that are walking by? To jail with them!! What if I'm a foot freak, and do nothing but zoom in on shoes? How does the court know that I'm taking pics for my personal gratification? Do I get away with it because I have some sort of special kink?

Anonymous said...

Let's analyze this conviction. The police have a tape of what was photographed. That's kind of like having a dead body in a murder case.

However, even though the tape proves a crime was committed, and we know the crime was committed on the defendant's property because of the depictions in the tape, the conviction is overturned because there is no evidence linking the defendant to the crime.

Hmmmmm........

John Holmes' Ghost said...

I still don't get the crime here. Who is the victim? I take pics at the beach all the time. Hum diggity!

Seriously though, who decides whether the pics are for sexual gratification and how do they really know. Diggity do!