Bills aim to toughen video voyeur law penalty

Felony status, increase in prison time proposed

February 06, 2003|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Two Howard County legislators filed bills yesterday that would strengthen the penalties for violators of Maryland's 3-year-old video voyeurism law in an effort to recognize what one called the "extraordinary trauma" inflicted in such cases.

The proposed legislation from Democratic Del. Neil Quinter and Republican Sen. Sandra B. Schrader would increase video peeping violations from misdemeanor to felony crimes, and the maximum penalty from six months and a $1,000 fine to five years and a $10,000 fine.

The legislators said the changes, which were introduced at the request of Howard prosecutors, would place the crime more on par with the state's felony wiretapping statute, which allows for a five-year sentence.

"It essentially makes watching equal to listening," Quinter said. The bill is being co-sponsored by most of Howard County's delegates, he said.

Quinter said the tougher penalty would allow prosecutors to introduce video cases at the Circuit Court level, which is more detail-oriented and allows greater interaction between victims and prosecutors, instead of the busy District Court with its crammed dockets.

Upgrading the crime to a felony also would eliminate the one-year statute of limitations for filing misdemeanor cases, officials said.

Del. Susan K. McComas, a Harford County Republican, said she also filed a bill yesterday adding tanning rooms to the places where cameras could not be secretly installed after hearing about an unsuccessful case involving a salon.

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