Legislative Council unanimously accepts bill extending indecent conduct charges to digital photographs

Posted: January 26, 2018 | Senator Carpenter

AUGUSTA — The Legislative Council on Thursday approved an after-deadline request by Sen. Mike Carpenter, D-Houlton, to submit LR 2797, “An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Indecent Conduct To Include Distribution of Photographic Images.” Legislative Council is a committee of ten made up of legislative leadership from both parties.

The bill request is the result of a case in Aroostook County last fall, when a 25 year-old man from Presque Isle was convicted of multiple sex offenses after using Facebook Messenger to send sexually explicit photos to five girls between the ages of 14 and 17. The man was found guilty of five counts of indecent conduct before the Aroostook County Superior Court.

The case was then appealed to the Maine Law Court. The court ruled that the man’s actions — while reprehensible — could not be considered indecent exposure since images transmitted over the internet were deemed legally insufficient to constitute an “exposure.” Carpenter’s bill would amend state law to ensure electronic communication and digital images are treated the same as indecent exposure in person.

“Indecent exposure is indecent exposure, regardless of whether it is committed in person or not,” said Carpenter.

Carpenter added that the language is “simply out of date” and credited Aroostook County Sheriff Darrell Crandall and District Attorney Todd Collins for bringing this issue to his attention.

“I believe the state has an obligation to protect people from being exposed to the genitals of another person, under circumstances that would cause affront or alarm, regardless of whether that occurs in person or by electronic means,” said Crandall. “The law needs to catch up with society’s ubiquitous use of technology for all things good and bad.”

The legislation, still in draft form, will be finalized in the coming weeks and referenced to a legislative committee for a public hearing.