Greetings members of the Seattle city council
Thursday, November 12, 2015
I would like to ask you to consider adding an element to the crime of public voyeurism as that crime is defined in the Seattle Municipal Code. Some of you know or remember that in 2003, the Washington state Supreme court reversed two convictions of two persons convicted of voyeurism on the basis that their conduct, though reprehenisible, was not prohibited by state law.
Shortly afterwards, both the city and the state created or expanded laws to cover the offending conduct but they did so in quite different ways.
The most significant difference is the presence of the element of the crime, as found in the state law, that the voyeurism be done in a way that violates a reasonable expectation of privacy. The Seattle law re voyeurism does not have that element.
I am currently suing the city to have the city’s law found unconstitutional, based chiefly on the precedent of Cohen v. California. The precedent Cohen v California says that certain laws, to be sound, if restricting speech, must be violating substantial privacy interests in an intolerable way.
Without that element of the crime, the Seattle law may be applied in a number of cases that are not a violation of a reasonable expectation of privacy. Tennis players, Latin dancers, a variety of other athletes, and ordinary women who choose to create a little allure and mystery at times wear clothing or engage in conduct that exposes their butt or panties or other body parts, though they had been covered with clothing.
I don’t know what my odds are in succeeding in the lawsuit, but it seems to me that you have nothing to lose and several thousand dollars in legal fees to be saved by adding that element to the crime of public voyeurism. I don’t see much reason the city might have for being reluctant to have or add that element of the crime, given that its absence is going to suppress photography that does not violate a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy.