House Representative

Coleman, Garnet F.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 03/10/2011

Rep. Coleman files Legislation to Increase Penalty for Lewdly Violating an Individual's Privacy

Austin--Rep. Garnet F. Coleman (Houston) today filed HB 2822 to increase the penalty for lewdly violating an individual's privacy in a place like a public restroom stall or shower to a state jail felony.

Rep. Coleman was prompted to file this legislation after a man was caught spying on a woman and her 4-year-old daughter in a public restroom stall at a Houston establishment. The man had a briefcase with electrical tape, duct tape, a sock with a pacifier, a plastic bag, and a recording device. Although the perpetrator had been caught in women's restrooms nearly twenty times and had been previously convicted for indecency with a child, he was only charged with criminal trespass which carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

"That's a serious flaw in our system," said Rep. Coleman. "In this situation, the punishment didn't fit the crime. As the father of a young daughter, I'm appalled. "

HB 2822 would make it a state jail felony, which carries a punishment of up to two years in jail, to lewdly violate an individual's privacy in a place like a public restroom stall or shower. Repeated offenders would immediately be placed on the sex offender registry.

"These are crimes most often committed against women and children," said Rep. Coleman. "Individuals who grotesquely and repeatedly violate an individual's privacy during a private moment should be on the registry."

HB 2822 builds upon legislation passed by Rep. Coleman in 2007 which made it a state jail felony to visually record an individual in a bathroom or dressing room in order to arouse or gratify sexual desire.

Concluded Rep. Coleman, "It doesn’t make sense that violating an individual's privacy with a camera is a state jail felony, but doing so in person has a lesser penalty. We need to close that discrepancy."

Representative Coleman is available for comment.