Georgia lawmakers file bill to make “upskirting” a crime

Georgia lawmakers will get a chance during the upcoming 2017 legislative session to make the lewd practice of “upskirting” — the surreptitious videotaping of a person’s private parts in a public place — a separate crime that can be prosecuted in the state.

Most Georgians probably already thought it was, but the state's Court of Appeals earlier this year ruled otherwise.

The court arrived at that conclusion when overturning an invasion-of-privacy conviction against former grocery clerk Brandon Lee Gary, who took videos up a woman’s skirt while she was shopping. The Georgia court found, as have other courts across the nation, that decades-old laws simply did not envision criminal acts committed with modern technology.

The ruling threw out the felony conviction against Gary, 24, who in June 2013 used his cell phone to take videos from under a woman’s skirt as she walked the aisles of a Publix in Houston County.

Under House Bill 9, filed earlier this week, "upskirting" would become a crime. The measure is sponsored by Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, and co-sponsored by state Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna, who chairs the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee and said after the Court of Appeals ruling that lawmakers needed to update state law on the issue.

According to court records, the woman, while getting milk, first noticed Gary bending down behind her as if he were tying his shoe. On another aisle, as the woman grabbed an item off a shelf, she turned around and saw Gary bending down behind her again, this time with his cell phone out and its camera pointed up under her skirt.

The upset shopper left the store but soon returned and complained to the store’s manager. A review of the Publix security camera showed that Gary aimed his phone’s camera underneath the woman’s skirt at least four times as she walked the aisles. Gary was indicted six months later, was eventually convicted and sentenced to five years on probation.

His lawyer said there was no law on the books that specifically outlawed “upskirting.”

In recent years, legislatures in Massachusetts, Texas and New Jersey have enacted new laws that criminalize “upskirting” — today’s version of a peeping tom offense.