UPDATE: Georgia Court: 'Upskirting' photos legal in public place - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Georgia Court: 'Upskirting' photos legal in public places

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UPDATE: A North Georgia Sheriff says he will do whatever it takes to prosecute someone who takes unwanted photos under a person's clothing, despite a recent Court of Appeals ruling in Georgia's "invasion of privacy" law regarding the act of "upskirting"
 
The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in favor of an Atlanta man who was caught with his camera  aimed underneath a woman's skirt, setting a new standard. 
       
Georgia residents have spoken loud and clear.

"It sickens me," said resident Jennifer Zimmerman." We have to watch our for our surroundings because you never know who is around." 

"I'm outraged that's crazy, it's absolutely nuts," said resident Della Milliken. 

They strongly disagree with the Georgia Court of Appeals decision to define a "private place " as a physical location like a bathroom, not an area of the body, making  public "upskirting" by law's definition not criminal. That means anyone can take a photograph or video of you in a public place, without any legal consequences. 

"With technology increasing the way it has over the years, we have to keep up with technology, and re-write laws to keep up," said resident Kim Burnett. " It also makes me mad that we have to change what we are wearing." 

Walker County Sherifff Steve Wilson has asked his detectives to investigate the law and find any loopholes of their own. In some cases, he believes "upskirting" offenders can still be charged.  

"Personally and professionally I'm certainly disappointed to hear the news that the Court of Appeals issued the ruling here this past week," said Sheriff Wilson. "Personally I have females in my household, that I work with and I would certainly be very disappointed if someone did an act like that toward one of my family members. Professionally I don't quite understand, anytime you violate the privacy and rights in this case a female and most likely a male violating these rights, it's certainly troubling." 

Sheriff Wilson is encouraging law enforcement to look for other loopholes. 

"It makes us look at the law and this scenarios if it happens in the future between now and maybe next year, when we hope the general assembly will re-wright this law," said Sheriff Wilson. "In the mean time we've got to look at the different options and maybe find a loophole as law enforcement. I've researched the law and feel like we have another avenue to go after these perpetrators, these violators, or these perverts if you will."

The Sheriff believes the Georgia Stalking statute could apply which states in part,  "A person commits the offense when he or she follows, places under surveillance, or contacts another person at or about a place or places without the consent of the other purpose for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person." 

The offense can be committed by telephone, mail, computer or any electronic device and the term "place or places" shall include any public or private property occupied by the victim. 

Wilson also believes an assault or sexual battery charge might apply in some cases with evidence of touching while upskirting. Still, detectives will have to aggressively investigate each claim on a case-by-case basis. 

 "I'd say you better stop and think about it especially in Walker County," said Sheriff Wilson. "We are prepared."

Residents say they are prepared too. 

"If they come up first of all they are going to have my knee in their groin and second of all, they are probably going to be on the floor," said resident Nancy Skidmore. " I don't want a man walking around trying to look up my dress and I do wear dresses."

"It would be a dead man walking," said resident Priscilla Bryant. "That's not okay." 

Sheriff Wilson doesn't want anyone to take justice into their own hands. 

"If you are violated you need to report it to your local law enforcement agency and immediately reach out to someone in authority or call 911," said Sheriff Wilson. 

Law enforcement will still have to consult with the DA's office one each case, changes can be made to the law at the next legislative session in January. Right now the District Attorney's Association of Georgia is exploring legislation to fight the ruling and Houston County's DA has filed a motion to reconsider. If the reconsideration is denied, the next step will be to petition the Georgia Supreme Court. 


PREVIOUS STORY:  A Georgia court ruled it is completely legal to take an upskirt picture in public places after a man was caught doing that very thing back in June of 2013.

Brandon Gary was seen on a grocery store's security cameras with his camera aimed underneath a victim's skirt. Gary was later indicted, but the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in his favor, setting a precedent. 
  
"That's just... it's just wrong," said resident Ladonna Bradshaw.  

Ladonna Bradshaw is one of many Georgia residents who strongly disagree with the Court of Appeals latest ruling regarding the act of "upskirting" or secretly taking unwanted photos underneath another person's clothing in a public place. 

"I think it opens the door for a lot of possibilities, I think it definitely opens the door for more trouble," said resident Priscilla Bryant. 

Attorney Stuart James explains the ruling, saying the court defines a private place as a physical location like a bathroom, not an area of the body.

"What the court of appeals says is that is not a criminal act in other words it says that is not a private place with in the means of the statute," said attorney Stuart James. 

Officials say if the new ruling stands, anyone can photograph or video you in what's considered to be a public place, without any legal consequences. Bathrooms and dressings rooms are protected. 

"It doesn't mean that it's not wrong," said James. "What it means is you are not going to be able to press somebody with criminal charges."

The District Attorney's Association of Georgia is exploring legislation to fight the ruling. Houston County's DA has filed a motion to reconsider.

If the reconsideration is denied the next step will be to petition the Georgia Supreme Court.

" Until the courts reach a final ruling, my recommendation to law enforcement will be to proceed under our existing interpretation of the law," said District Attorney Bert Poston, Conasauga Judicial Circuit. " Each case will have to be reviewed on a its own fats on a case-by-case basis and it may not make sense to go to trail on a pending case until there is a final judicial ruling."

"That is more than an invasion of privacy and the legislators in Georgia are going to hear from me," said Bradshaw.

"It would be a dead man walking," said Bryant, " Its not okay, I don't care if it's my 10 year old daughter or my 80 year old grandmother, it's not okay."

In Tennessee, it is illegal for a person to photograph someone where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy without consent. While there are some similarities in Georgia and Tennessee laws, Tennessee's has not been challenged by a higher court. 

Changes to the law can me made in the next Georgia legislative session in January. 


PREVIOUS STORY: ATLANTA - A recent Georgia Court of Appeal's decision has ruled that "upskirting" is not a crime in the state. 

The shocking announcement came following a case in which a man was caught filming underneath a woman's skirt back in June of 2013. 

While working for a Publix Grocery store in Houston County, Brandon Lee Gary was caught on the store's security cameras with his camera aimed underneath a victim's skirt at least four times as the victim walked and shopped in the aisles. 

Gary later admitted to the action after being questioned by police. He was later indicted by a grand jury on a single count of "Unlawful Eavesdropping and Surveillance."

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