2007-02-08 / News

Amended 'Peeping Tom' bill introduced to General Assembly

By Sam Bari

State Representative Bruce Long (R-Jamestown, Middletown) said that bill H5211, an amendment to the "Disorderly Conduct" law, closes an unforeseen loophole in the "Peeping Tom" section of the legislation.

The amended legislation says that "a person commits disorderly conduct if she or he looks for a lascivious purpose through a window, or any other opening into an area in which another would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, including, but not limited to, a restroom, locker room, shower, changing room, dressing room, bedroom, or any other such private area, not withstanding any property rights the individual may have in the location in which the private area is located."

The important change in the new wording is "not withstanding any property rights," Long said. "Under the current statute voyeurism can only take place if it is on someone else's property," Long added. He also said that "an amendment in 2004 added 'or any other buildings' to the law. Prior to that, voyeurism was a criminal violation only if it involved a residential dwelling."

The amendment is worded to ensure that reasonable rights to privacy are always protected, Long said. According to the original legislation, violation of those rights is a criminal offense punishable by up to six months of jail time, fines up to $500, or both.

The bill's primary sponsors, Rep. Amy G. Rice (D-Portsmouth, Middletown, Newport) and Rep. Donald L. Lally (D-South Kingstown, Narragansett, North Kingstown) introduced the bill with Long, Rep. Paul W. Crowley (D-Newport) and Rep. Joanne Giannini (D-Providence).

Long said that the 2004 change took place after Police Chief Thomas Tighe contacted him about an incident in Jamestown. It was then learned that the statute did not provide prosecution for voyeurism in any buildings other than residential dwellings.

Recognizing the need for the amended legislation, primary sponsors Rice and Lally wrote the bill, which they, along with Crowley, Giannini and Long, introduced to the House last week. The legislation was then referred to the House Judiciary Committee. A hearing was scheduled for yesterday.

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