The American Civil Liberties Union warned Wednesday about criminalizing some press activity in arguing against a video voyeurism bill - using as a hypothetical the famous shot of Marilyn Monroe with her skirt blown up.
SB10 criminalizes videotaping "private areas" of people under circumstances in which they have "a reasonable expectation of privacy." The bill passed the Senate in March and was heard for the first time in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, has tried to pass similar measures since 2001, when she was a member of the Assembly, citing cases of people being videotaped without their knowledge and the police's incapacity to prosecute the perpetrators.
Frank Adams of Nevada Sheriffs' and Chiefs' Association said the bill is needed by law enforcement.
"We need to have a tool, when these individuals violate the privacy of others, to deal with that," Adams said.
Lee Rowland of the Nevada ACLU opposed some sections of the bill, and offered amendments to make it more palatable. She said the bill would not withstand a court challenge because it creates a new definition of "a reasonable expectation of privacy" when court cases have already established precedent in that area.
"We certainly don't have an objection to making this a criminal offense. I would just say the inclusion of 'reasonable expectation' should be the one that already exists in law. There is so much law on this topic, you don't need to define it again," Rowland said.
Rowland said the bill also places the press in danger of prosecution, saying it would criminalize examples brought up by Judiciary Committee members, including the shot of Marilyn Monroe and an instance where paparazzi caught Britney Spears coming out of a limousine without wearing underwear.
"We believe this is unconstitutional and also unwise, as it would literally criminalize every tabloid magazine," Rowland said.
Cegavske said she'd worked out the language in 2005 with the previous head of the Nevada Press Association, Kent Lauer.
Rowland's also said the ACLU objected to a nonviolent crime being made a felony when Nevada's prisons are already overcrowded with one of the highest incarceration rates in the country.
There was discussion about whether the ACLU's objections had been heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which first reviewed the bill, or were provided to Cegavske. Minutes from that meeting show Rowland was the first to speak and provided the same written testimony for the record.
Cegavske said she does not sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee and had never seen the ACLU suggestions.
"I think the bill, with all due respect to the opposition, has been worked and thoroughly thought out," Cegavske said.