Measure to toughen the penalty for video voyeurs is killed

March 26, 2003|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A bill that would have strengthened the penalty for violators of Maryland's 3-year-old video voyeurism law was killed late last week after a Senate committee gave its version of the bill an "unfavorable report."

Del. Neil F. Quinter, a Howard County Democrat, said this week that a vote by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee spurred him Friday to withdraw the version he filed in the House of Delegates. The bill would have made video peeping a felony and increased the maximum penalty from six months to five years and the maximum fine from $1,000 to $10,000.

Quinter said he expects to refile the bill next year.

"It's a first year of a four-year term, so we'll be back next year," said Quinter, a freshman legislator. "I don't feel like it really got a fair hearing this year."

The bill suffered from bad timing, he said.

Because hearings before the Senate and House committees charged with debating the bill's fate were held about the same time on the same day - March 11 - prosecutors and a victim who came to Annapolis to testify never made it to the Senate proceeding.

"I think the House of Delegates members were generally ... affected by the victim's testimony," said Howard State's Attorney Timothy J. McCrone, who spoke in favor of the bill before the House Judiciary Committee. "I think if she was able to express her concerns on the Senate side, it would have been different."

McCrone's office has successfully prosecuted two defendants who hid video cameras - one in a North Laurel school bathroom and the other in bedrooms and bathrooms used by renters in an Elkridge house.

Howard prosecutors asked legislators to introduce the bill after noticing a disparity between the penalties for video voyeurism and for wiretapping, a felony that carries a five-year maximum penalty.

At the March 11 hearing, Howard prosecutors said the current penalty for video peeping does not adequately "address the seriousness of these crimes."

Sen. Sandra B. Schrader, a Howard County Republican who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, could not be reached yesterday for comment.

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