KINGSPORT, Tenn. (AP) — Three appeals court judges in Tennessee have ruled that it is not illegal to film women fully clothed in public without their permission.
In separate but identical opinions filed late last month, Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Judges D. Kelly Thomas Jr., James Curwood Witt Jr. and Thomas T. Woodall dismissed unlawful photography convictions against a man accused of filming women for sexual gratification, The Knoxville News Sentinel reported Sunday.
David Eric Lambert was convicted of the charges, along with a sexual battery count, after he was found to have taken “close-up” images of three women’s “private areas” in stores around Kingsport in 2016, court records show.
Lambert had prior misdemeanor convictions for exposing himself and committing sexual acts in public at the time, and one of the women said he grabbed her at a Dollar Tree store, according to Lambert’s appeal. He later admitted to Kingsport Police detective Martin Taylor that he took the images and “crossed moral boundaries,” though he said he did not think he committed a crime, the documents said.
“I actually did not think I was doing anything wrong because everything was done in a public place,” Lambert stated.
The 2nd Judicial District Public Defender’s office challenged the convictions and the judges agreed that Lambert’s actions were not criminal, noting that there is no expectation of privacy in such public places in the digital age.
“It is simply not reasonable to expect that our fully-clothed images will remain totally private,” Judge Thomas wrote in his opinion.
The judges kept Lambert’s sexual battery conviction in the victim’s grabbing, the newspaper said.
His case now returns to a Sullivan County Criminal Court judge for resentencing.