Good Thing They Changed the State’s ‘Upskirting’ Laws

Because a suspect was caught snapping photos of a woman at an MBTA station, using his iPad. He told police he thought it was legal.

A Norwood man was taken into custody in what transit officials said is the first “upskirting” arrest since legislators made an emergency effort to push through language amending the state’s “Peeping Tom” laws in March.

According to reports, around 5:45 p.m. on Tuesday night, Transit Police officers got a call to respond to Forest Hills after being informed that a man was allegedly using an iPad to take photos up a woman’s dress.

When officers arrived at the station, the victim told them she felt “something” brush against her knees while standing on the upper busway at Forest Hills. She said when she looked down to see what it was, she observed a man’s hand between her legs, holding the electronic device, with the camera facing up her skirt.

The victim said the suspect, later identified as 23-year-old Joshua Gonsalves, of Norwood, boarded a bus and left the area.

The female victim provided officers with a detailed description of Gonsalves, and they managed to locate and the stop the bus they believed he was on. When they got on the bus they observed a man holding an iPad, who matched the victim’s description of the suspect.

When officers apprehended Gonsalves, he allegedly told officers that “… he heard on the news it was not illegal to ‘take pictures up a girl’s skirt.’”

For a brief moment earlier this year, Gonsalves’ assumptions about the state law as it pertained to “upskirting” were true. In March, the state’s highest court ruled that a man caught taking pictures up women’s skirts on the MBTA didn’t violate the “Peeping Tom” laws because of the way the laws were written.

The court said the law only applied when people were being photographed unknowingly while nude or partially nude in places like dressing rooms. At the time of the ruling, the court said the law did not cover taking pictures of people in public settings who were fully clothed but accidentally or intentionally exposing parts of their body.

Unfortunately for Gonzalez, he didn’t follow up on that news, when state lawmakers and prosecutors swiftly stepped after the court’s ruling, and amended the language of the law to include banning “upskirting” in public places.

On March 7, Governor Deval Patrick signed “An Act Relative to Unlawful Sexual Surveillance,” which updated the state’s existing criminal voyeurism laws to outlaw secretly taking photos up women’s skirts, whether they are clothed or not.

The legislation was also supported by an aggressive MBTA campaign where transit officials plastered posters on buses and trains, informing riders that taking secret photos of people’s private parts and undergarments is punishable by law.

Gonsalves will be arraigned Wednesday in West Roxbury District Court.

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