Revenge Porn Bill Proposed

February 10, 2015

Florida State Representative Tom Goodson (R-Titusville) announced recently that he is sponsoring a bill that would criminalize revenge porn. Bill HB 151 would make disseminating pornography for the purpose of harassment a third degree felony. This is the third time that an attempt has been made to pass this bill in Florida.

What Is Revenge Porn?

Revenge porn, a phenomenon of the internet age, is an internet sex crime, committed when sexually explicit material, whether pictures or videos, is disseminated online without the consent of the pictured individual. It is mostly used by former romantic partners to shame, bully, or embarrass exes, though sometimes it is also uploaded by hackers. Many revenge porn images are taken by the subjects themselves and intended only for private use. Often the uploaded images are accompanied by identifying personal information or links to social media sites.

The Bill

The proposed bill would make it illegal to distribute revenge porn, and offenders would be charged with a felony. The bill reads in pertinent part:

“An individual may not intentionally and knowingly disclose a sexually explicit image of an identifiable person or that contains descriptive information in a form that conveys the personal identification information of the person to a social networking service or a website, or by means of any other electronic medium, with the intent to harass such person, if the individual knows or should have known that the person depicted in the sexually explicit image did not consent to such disclosure.”

The proposed crime can be broken down into four elements:

  1. Intentionally disclosing a sexually explicit image (eg. photo, film, videotape, or recording),
  2. Of a person who can be identified (via facial recognition or by the inclusion of personal identification information),
  3. With the intent to harass, and
  4. The offender knows or should have known that the person depicted did not consent to the disclosure of the image.

Violation would result in the offender being charged with a third degree felony, which is punishable by imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000. However, if the image is of a person who was younger than sixteen years at the time of the creation of the image, violation would result in a second degree felony. This is punishable by imprisonment of up to fifteen years and a fine of no more than $10,000.

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivy stated that making the act a felony means that it is easier to prosecute. Judges are more likely to issue search warrants for felony investigations than for mere misdemeanors. Currently, distributors of revenge porn may be charged with cyberstalking, but that offense is categorized as a misdemeanor.

Fourteen other states currently have similar laws to HB 151. Eight states make the offense a felony, and six a misdemeanor. Additionally, thirteen other states have similar legislation pending, and U.S. Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Colo., has proposed federal legislation.

If you have been accused of or arrested for an internet sex crime, the advice of an experienced defense attorney is essential. Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free consultation.