Barely Legally

Confessions of a Moot Court Bailiff

Not a Good Look, Texas

Shot: Texas court throws out “upskirt” photo law.

The state’s highest criminal court on Wednesday tossed out part of a Texas law banning “improper photography or visual recording” - surreptitious images acquired in public for sexual gratification, often called “upskirting” or “downblousing” - as a violation of federal free-speech rights and an improper restriction on a person’s right to individual thoughts. […]

In an 8-1 ruling, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said photos, like paintings, films and books, are “inherently expressive” and, therefore, are protected by the First Amendment.

Chaser: Texas Bill Would Make It Illegal for You to Film a Cop Beating You.

Section 38.15 of the Texas Penal Code makes it an offense to interrupt, disrupt, impede, or otherwise interfere with “public duties,” including those being exercised by a police officer. That’s the law pretty much everywhere, of course, but the question that has arisen in recent years is whether you are “interfering” (etc.) with a police officer just because you are recording what he or she is doing. The Texas statute doesn’t say anything specific about recording, although it does say a person can’t be prosecuted if the interfering acts “consisted of speech only.” […]

Okay, now along comes Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) with H.B. 2918. This bill would amend section 38.15 to expressly include within the definition of “interference” the conduct of “filming, recording, photographing, or documenting the officer within 25 feet of the officer,” or doing so “within 100 feet of the officer” if you are also carrying a concealed handgun.

Sure, maybe the upskirt law was a little overbroad, and it stepped on the toes of the first amendment. I get it. I don’t know that I would have tossed out the whole statute, but hey. Texas doesn’t mess around with free speech.

But come on. If you have the right to film kids in bathing suits (no, really, that’s what that case was about), then you should at least be allowed to film a cop. Especially one who’s beating you.