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Video Voyeurism Prevention Act Of 2004

Sen. Lamar Alexander

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Mr. President, I ask the Chair lay before the Senate a message from the House of Representatives on the bill (S. 1301) to amend title 18, United States Code, to prohibit video voyeurism in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and for other purposes.

The PRESIDING OFFICER laid before the Senate the following message from the House of Representatives:

Resolved, That the bill from the Senate (S. 1301) entitled ``An Act to amend title 18, United States Code, to prohibit video voyeurism in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and for other purposes'', do pass with the following amendment: Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert:

This Act may be cited as the ``Video Voyeurism Prevention Act of 2004''.

(a) In General.--Title 18, United States Code, is amended by inserting after chapter 87 the following new chapter:

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy

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Mr. President, I am pleased that the Senate is poised to pass S. 1301, the DeWine-Schumer-Leahy Video Voyeurism Prevention Act of 2004. This bill targets the pernicious practice of invading a person's privacy through the surreptitious use of hidden surveillance equipment. Specifically, the bill makes it a crime to capture an improper, naked, or near-naked image of a person without his or her consent, and in such a way as to violate his or her privacy. Any person found guilty of video voyeurism as outlined in the bill may be fined or imprisoned for up to 1 year or both.

In recent years, the explosion of microcamera technology has fed the growing phenomenon of video voyeurism. Hidden cameras have been discovered in bedrooms, bathrooms, public showers, changing rooms, locker rooms, and tanning salons, all aimed at filming unsuspecting victims in various states of undress. Often, the invasion of privacy is exacerbated when captured images are posted on the Internet for all the world to see.

I commend Senators DeWine and Schumer for bringing this invasive practice to the attention of the Judiciary Committee and for crafting a bill that addresses it in a thoughtful and measured manner. In addition, I thank them for addressing a concern I raised during the committee's consideration of the bill. As introduced, the bill did not expressly prohibit ``cyber-peeping''--a particularly offensive form of video voyeurism involving the contemporaneous transmission of improper images of a non-consenting person over the Internet through Web cameras and other means. As reported by the Judiciary Committee, the ``cyber-peeping'' loophole has been closed: The bill before the Senate today covers the simultaneous Web casting of images or any other transmissions that may not be recorded so that defendants who use this means of violating people's privacy cannot escape punishment.

The National Center for Victims of Crime has dubbed video voyeurism ``the new frontier of stalking.'' The States are already responding to this ``new frontier'' in many different ways. Some have passed video voyeurism laws; others have addressed the conduct within the context of their laws against stalking. The Video Voyeurism Prevention Act brings the Federal criminal laws to bear on those who commit this offense within the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States. It should be enacted without delay.

Sen. Michael DeWine

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Mr. President, I rise today in support of passage of the Video Voyeurism Prevention Act of 2004. This act would help safeguard the privacy we all value, and help ensure that our criminal law reflects the realities of rapidly changing technology. It would do this by prohibiting both the filming of and taking compromising pictures of people in places where they expect privacy the most. This important legislation would give prosecutors and law enforcement officers the tools they need to fully prosecute these disturbing acts, acts that have, tragically, become more and more prevalent.

For example, a woman in my home State of Ohio became a victim of video voyeurism while she attended a church picnic with her young daughter. She told the Cincinnati Enquirer that, ``as I crouched down to put the baby in my stroller, I saw a video camera sticking out of his bag, taping up my dress. . . . It rocked my whole sense of security.'' The law needs to say clearly that such an act is illegal.

As disturbing as these acts are, they are occurring with increasing frequency and are going unpunished. Almost weekly, there are reports of cameras found in public bathrooms and changing rooms. Just recently, an employee of the New Mexico Department of Transportation had installed a tiny camera in an office restroom. What makes these crimes even more troubling is the ease with which these images can be transmitted to countless people via the Internet. Now, not only has an individual been victimized by having per picture taken, she faces the possibility of millions more seeing those pictures in cyberspace.

While video voyeurism is currently illegal in over 30 States, including Ohio, there are still areas where prosecutors are unable to file charges for these crimes. As the defense attorney for one video voyeur aptly observed, ``The criminal law necessarily lags behind technology and human ingenuity.''

This legislation takes an important step toward ensuring a person that he or she will not be filmed or photographed where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy on Federal land, like at a national park. Additionally, the bill makes certain that perpetrators of video voyeurism are punished, by imposing a sentence of a fine or imprisonment for up to 1 year.

I thank my colleagues for supporting the legislation.

Sen. Lamar Alexander

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Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate concur in the House amendment, the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table, and that any statements relating to the bill be printed in the Record.

Without objection, it is so ordered.