Sex Offenses Law

An Overview of Revenge Porn Law

This content contains sensitive subject matter related to legal defense for crimes of a sexual nature.

Mobile phones make it easy to take photos and share them across social media in seconds. Phone cameras can also take intimate images, with or without someone noticing the camera. Taking sexually explicit images without someone’s consent can be a crime. Threatening to share the images online can also be illegal under state criminal law.

The laws and penalties for revenge porn can depend on the state. If someone accuses you of revenge porn, talk to a local criminal defense attorney about your legal rights and how you can fight the charges to avoid a criminal record.

What Is Revenge Porn?

Revenge porn refers to posting a sexual image of another person to get revenge or embarrass them. Some states have passed new revenge porn laws, and other states have laws that make it illegal to take or distribute sexual images of another person without their consent. Distribution includes electronic media, including texting, email, uploading to websites, or posting on social media.

Even if the photos or videos were taken with consent, it might still be a sex crime to share the photos if they were taken with the understanding that the images were to be private. For example, if a couple shares sexting images with each other, it could be considered revenge porn if one of them later shares images of their sexual acts with friends.

Examples of revenge porn can include:

  • Hidden cameras in bathrooms or changing rooms
  • Secretly videotaping a romantic encounter
  • Hackers accessing nude photos on someone’s phone
  • Posting photos of an intimate partner on social media without consent
  • Extortion by threatening to release the images unless they send money or more explicit photos

State Revenge Porn Laws

A federal law passed in 2022 as part of the 2022 Omnibus spending bill earlier this year that allows victims of revenge porn a right to a federal civil case of action for people whose naked pictures are disclosed without their consent. Sharing explicit material across the internet can also be a federal crime. For example, nonconsensual pornography of someone under the age of 18 could be considered child pornography or child sexual exploitation.

Most states make it illegal to disseminate nonconsensual pornography. For example, under California Penal Code 647, it is a crime to distribute, without consent, the image of the intimate body parts of another identifiable person or an image of the person depicted engaged in a sexual act.

In New York, under Penal Code 245.15, it is illegal to disseminate an intimate and identifiable image without consent with the intent to cause harm. An intimate part under New York law includes the naked genitals, pubic area, anus, or female breast.

What Are the Penalties for Revenge Porn?

The penalties for revenge porn depend on the state. In most cases, a first-time revenge porn charge is a misdemeanor. As a misdemeanor, the penalties can include up to a year in jail and fines. The defendant may also have to compensate the porn victim for any damages caused by posting private images.

Other situations could carry more serious penalties. If the unlawful images involve a child or someone under 18 years of age involved in sexual activity, taking or posting images can be child pornographySex crimes involving a minor can be felony offenses and require registration as a sex offender.

Civil Action for Revenge Porn

The victim of revenge porn could also file a civil lawsuit against the person who shared the images. Some states provide civil remedies for an invasion of privacy, including money damages for emotional distress and punitive damages.

Are There Defenses to Revenge Porn Charges?

If you are accused of revenge porn, talk to your criminal defense lawyer about possible legal defenses in your case. Some possible defenses include the following:

  • The person consented to share the intimate photos
  • The person exposed themselves voluntarily in a public place
  • Your computer was hacked, and the photos were stolen and shared without your knowledge
  • The person is not identifiable from the image

How Can a Lawyer Help With Sex Crime Charges?

Sex offense criminal charges have severe penalties. Some sexual offenses can require registration as a sex offender, where the public can see the offender’s picture, name, address, and criminal history.

If someone accuses you of sharing sexual images without their consent, an attorney can defend you in court. A lawyer can also negotiate to have charges reduced so you won’t have to register as a sex offender and can avoid a criminal record.

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