Document Type

Article

Publication Title

Verdict

Publication Date

9-30-2014

Abstract

Ronald Thompson was arrested in Texas and charged with 26 counts of “improper photography” in 2011. He was seen taking pictures of kids underwater at Sea World. After parents complained, he was arrested. A search of his camera revealed 73 photos of children in swimsuits, with the focus on their breasts and buttocks.

His behavior, according to the authorities, violated a provision of the Texas criminal code on “improper photography” (Tex. Penal Code, sec. 21.15). This provision outlawed photographs taken “without the other person’s consent,” and “with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.” Thompson’s defense: this law violated his rights under the First Amendment—rights to freedom of speech and expression. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with him. An 8-1 majority of the Court of Criminal Appeals, in Ex Parte Thompson, held that the statute went too far and violated Thompson’s constitutional rights.

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