Today the Fourth Court of Appeals declared unconstitutional the Texas Improper Photography Statute. Section 21.15 of the Penal Code, known as the Improper Photography statute, makes it a State Jail Felony to visually record or photograph another person without their consent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of another person.
The defendant in the case, Ronald Thompson, age 50, was arrested in July of 2011, at Sea World of Texas, after concerned parents reported him swimming with and taking pictures of children ages 3 to 11. When approached by park security, Thompson attempted to delete the photographs on his camera before it was seized. Police examination of the camera revealed 73 photographs of children in swimsuits, with most of the photographs targeting the children’s breast and buttocks areas. Thompson was indicted by a Grand Jury on 26 felony counts of violating the Improper Photography statute.
The Improper Photography protects individuals from being recorded without their consent for the sexual purposes of others. The law is frequently applied where covert cameras are placed in bedrooms to record or broadcast sexual activity without the knowledge of a participant. It also protects women from offenders who crouch behind them to take “up-skirt” pictures in public places. And, the law protects children from child predators who would use them as the subjects of their sexual fantasies. The act of photographing children in this manner is viewed by some experts as a stepping stone toward more aggressive behavior as these individuals begin to act on their fantasies.
Three other courts of appeals in Texas have held the Improper Photography statute to be constitutional. The Fourth Court of Appeals is the only court to have ever held otherwise. District Attorney Reed intends to appeal the case to the Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest court of criminal review in Texas.
For further information please contact District Attorney Susan Reed at (210) 335-2342.