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Massachusetts Outlaws 'Upskirt' Photos After Court Ruling

In a serious blow to Peeping Toms, Massachusetts has outlawed secretly taking photographs of "the sexual or other intimate parts" of people in public.

Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill Friday that was fast-tracked through the state legislature just two days after the state's highest court ruled that a man who took cellphone photos up the skirts of female passengers riding the Boston subway didn't violate state law.

Top lawmakers said the bill will send a clear message to those who take so-called "upskirt" photos.

"It is sexual harassment. It's an assault on another person whether it's a child or an adult," Senate President Therese Murray said moments after the Senate unanimously approved the bill. "Woman and children should be able to go to public places without feeling that they are not protected by the law."

The legislation says anyone who "photographs, videotapes or electronically surveils" another person's sexual or intimate parts without that person's consent would face a misdemeanor charge and a maximum penalty of two-and-a-half years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

The crime becomes a felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for photographs or recordings of a child under 18. Distributing such photos would carry a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Murray said those who take such photos sometimes post them on pornographic websites.

Wednesday's court decision overruled a lower court that had upheld charges against Michael Robertson, who was arrested in August 2010 by transit police who set up a sting after getting reports that he was using his cellphone to take photos and video up the skirts and dresses of female riders.

— Patrick Garrity

The Associated Press contributed to this report.