Revenge Porn and the Coming Laws

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What do you think of when you hear “revenge porn?” The images that come to mind probably are not pleasant ones. The phrase, revenge porn comes from the idea that it is a way to take revenge on an ex. With the proliferation of camera, this type of behavior is happening more often. And with cell phones and social media, police departments and District Attorneys across the country are trying to figure out how to deal with this growing trend.

The first revenge porn case was brought in New York Criminal Court by a woman that claimed her ex-boyfriend sent nude images of her to her sister as well as her employer. The former boyfriend was arrested and charged with harassment, dissemination of unlawful surveillance and public display of sexual material. In reviewing the charges, it is clear that the defendant wasn’t charged with doing exactly what he did — sharing potentially embarrassing images without the consent of the person in the images. The reason is simple enough. New York does not have a law against “revenge porn.”

The conflict between technology and the law became apparent recently when a New York County Criminal Judge tossed the case for that reason. What the ex-boyfriend did is not against any crime currently on the books. The judge concluded that the harassment charge didn’t apply because the images weren’t sent to the girlfriend. The unlawful surveillance accusation didn’t hold up because the images were obtained lawfully. While the judge understood that the girlfriend did not give permission to her ex to send the images, there isn’t any law that could support the criminal charges.

Since the ruling there has been heated debate. Only two states, New Jersey and California, have laws that talk specifically about the sharing of images containing explicit material without the consent of the person in the image. Lawmakers in Hawaii, Maryland and Wisconsin are considering laws that will close the loophole.

The laws will have inherent imperfections. First, the First Amendment does support the idea that a person cannot be arrested, or imprisoned, for publicizing its speech in the form of photographs or images. Some lawmakers are suggesting that the criminal courts is not the proper venue in which to deal with revenge porn. They are suggesting, instead, a better course would be to file a civil suit for the damages potentially caused.

While technology continues to outpace the law, states will catch up and put appropriate laws on the books. Revenge porn may soon be outlawed.

If you feel you may have been a victim of revenge porn, be sure to contact an attorney immediately who can guide you on the latest state of legislation regarding this growing problem.