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State Debates Felony For Privacy Invasion

Social media and simple image sharing have strained and twisted modern privacy laws. Now, the Oregon Legislature might pass a privacy bill to establish the crime of “invasion of personal privacy” in the first degree as a felony in Oregon. The crime could be punished with up to five years imprisonment. 

The proposed law, House Bill 2356 B, states that taking images of a person nude without consent in a space where a person has a “reasonable expectation of personal privacy” would be a Class C felony. The court could also require the defendant to register as a sex offender.  

“It’s only a misdemeanor right now and not an appropriate level of punishment for the severity of this action,” says former State Rep. Denyc Boles, who proposed the bill in 2014. “The offender should be held to a higher level of accountability than is current law.” 

The proposed law would keep the misdemeanor as a second degree offense for less egregious cases. The Criminal Justice Commission, after analyzing current data, estimates it could result in four more felony convictions per year.  

The bill was “generated” from the story of Ashley Buckle, from Keizer, Oregon, who was stalked and secretly filmed by her stepfather, Bryan Tilley. Tilley installed hidden cameras in her bathroom and bedroom, at home and at her college apartment in Corvallis, and also filmed other women secretly. 

In October 2014, Tilley was sentenced to 44 months in jail, but only because of a burglary conviction for stealing a tequila bottle from Buckle’s apartment. The secret taping and invasion of privacy was only a misdemeanor. Cases like Buckle’s have spurred legislators on to pass the bill. 

“I think with technology increasing it’s hard to keep up,” Boles says of privacy laws. “There have been quite a few new laws this session to keep up with how criminals adapt to social media.” 

On June 10, Gov. Kate Brown signed HB 2596 into place, which bans “upskirt photos,” and on June 11, SB 188 banning “revenge porn” was signed into law.

“We were in shock to be told that in the state of Oregon these crimes are only considered a misdemeanor,” says Buckle’s mother, Cathy McInnis, in her testimony on 2356. She and Buckle have been campaigning adamantly for the bill.  

The bill has enjoyed huge support so far, passing unanimously in the House and Senate Judicial committees.   

Now HB 2356 just has to pass through the full Ways and Means Committee and then will be on its way to a full vote by the Senate, which Boles cautiously predicts could happen next week.