State Rep. Gravley co-sponsors 'upskirting' bill

Liz Marino/File Photo

State Rep. Micah Gravley is a co-signer on a bill designed to prevent surreptitious filming of a person's private parts in a public place.

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State Rep. Micah Gravley is a co-signer on a bill designed to prevent surreptitious filming of a person's private parts in a public place.

HB 9 has been pre-filed for the 2017 legislative session, with four other sponsors in addition to Gravley, a Douglasville Republican who represents parts of Douglas and Paulding counties.

"Once we convene for the session, we will have a tremendous amount of bipartisan support for this bill," said Gravley. "We want to be laser focused in how we word the law, because we don't want there to be unintended consequences."

There is no known opposition to the bill, which is designed to update existing law that was written prior to the existence of cellphone cameras.

HB 9 stems from a ruling made by the Court of Appeals of Georgia in July. Brandon Lee Gary, a former grocery clerk from Houston County, was arrested for taking videos up a woman's skirt while she was shopping. The court ruled 6-3 that existing laws written several decades ago could not envision criminal acts committed with modern technology.

"It is regrettable that no law currently exists which criminalizes Gary's reprehensible conduct," Judge Elizabeth Branch wrote for the majority in the case. "The remedy for this problem, however, lies with the General Assembly, not this court."

Now the General Assembly is preparing to take action.

see 'upskirting'/page 5

Gravley said a constituent contacted him with concerns about the law and he feels it is time to make updates.

"I have a constituent who actually knows the family in Houston County," said Gravley. "He informed me immediately when this happened and the court opinion came out. It immediately drew my attention and my interest as a husband and a father of three daughters."

Several states have passed similar laws in recent years, including Massachusetts, Texas and New Jersey. Gravley said he will study the laws recently passed in other states as part of his research for HB 9.

"After learning of the court's ruling, my first thought was 'how could the law not cover this?' " said Gravley. "But, we ask our courts not to be activist courts. Their ruling shined a light on an area of need in the code. After reviewing the court's opinions, I think the court of appeals was somewhat asking us to address this."

Gary was originally convicted under Georgia's invasion of privacy law, which makes it illegal for anyone, without the consent of all those involved, "to observe, photograph or record the activities of another which occur in any private place and out of public view."

The issue at hand is pinning down the definition of "private place."

State Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, who represents portions of Cobb, Douglas and Fulton counties, said he has not read HB 9 yet but supports the intent of the bill.

"I think the court should have applied some rational judgement," said Bruce, who heads Douglas County's eight-member state delegation. "From a practical standpoint, at the very least he invaded this woman's privacy by doing what he did."

Bruce feels the court ruled in error originally and already had grounds for a conviction in the Houston County case.

"Sometimes you get involved in the technicality of the law and not the practicality of the situation," he said. "To me, there are other laws that would have convicted [Gary]. He should not have been back on the street without punishment for what he did. If we have to create a more specific law to protect people's privacy then yes, I would support that."

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