Three appeals court judges in Tennessee ruled that it is not illegal to film women fully clothed in public without their permission, claiming there is no expectation of privacy in the digital age. David Eric Lambert was convicted of unlawful photography, along with a sexual battery count, after he was found to have taken close-up images of three women’s private areas in stores in 2016. The 2nd Judicial District Public Defender’s office challenged the convictions after Lambert said he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong because the images were taken in public. Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Judges D. Kelly Thomas Jr., James Curwood Witt Jr. and Thomas T. Woodall agreed. “Exposure to the capture of our images by cameras has become, perhaps unfortunately, a reality of daily life in our digital age,” Thomas wrote in his opinion. “When nearly every person goes about her day with a handheld device capable of taking hundreds of photographs and videos and every public place is equipped with a wide variety of surveillance equipment, it is simply not reasonable to expect that our fully-clothed images will remain totally private.”
Lambert, 40, 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 Police detective Martin Taylor that he took the images for sexual gratification and crossed moral boundaries, though he said he did not think he committed a crime. The detective said he had to field calls from numerous women in March 2016, complaining of a man with a “creepy grin” and a cell phone who was following them around while shopping at stores such as Ross, Hobby Lobby and Walmart. Lambert took photographs of their buttocks. He claimed he is willing to get help for his problem and that he meant no harm. Lambert filmed approximately 20 videos of women at six stores but Taylor could only retrieve three videos so Lambert was only charged in three of the cases. Lambert’s case now returns to a Sullivan County Criminal Court judge for resentencing. He was also convicted for sexual battery in the Dollar Tree incident and it remains upheld.
Photo Credit: Kingsport Police Department – supplied