California expands scope of law against “revenge porn”

California’s “revenge porn” law now includes materials that the subject personally created; this change could leave more people facing charges.

In 2013, a California law that criminalized the posting of "revenge porn" went into effect. Under this law, posting revenge pornography - which is defined as sexually explicit content shared for the purpose of causing the subject emotional distress - became a misdemeanor. The initial law had a narrow scope, but at the start of 2015, two laws that expand on the first became effective, according to CBS News. Under the updated laws, more people in Torrance may be vulnerable to charges.

Legal changes and consequences

The original revenge porn law only applied to images that subjects did not personally take, according to Forbes. Now, posting "selfies" that were taken by the subject can also be considered a violation of the law, if other criteria are met. Under the second newly effective law, the subjects of revenge porn may seek economic damages from the person who posted the materials.

Violations of this law can have serious consequences, even if the offense is only classified as a misdemeanor. In late 2014, a Californian was prosecuted for the first time under the law, according to The Los Angeles Times. The man was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison for posting a revealing photo of his ex-girlfriend and derogatory comments on the woman's employer's Facebook page.

Supporters of the law believe that it provides necessary protection when people intentionally try to cause others harm by sharing explicit materials. However, critics worry that the law violates fundamental rights and allows convictions based on subjective standards.

Potential issues with charges

The American Civil Liberties Union has expressed concern that the law violates free speech rights. People may have artistic, financial or other reasons for posting the content that the law addresses. Although the law provides that explicit materials must be posted with malicious intentions to qualify as revenge porn, establishing the reason behind a person's decision to post these materials may prove difficult.

State law also holds that explicit materials only qualify as revenge porn if both the subject and the person who publicly shared the materials had reason to think the materials would remain private, according to Forbes. An expectation of privacy may be clear if the subject was unaware that the images were being captured or if the subject and second party made a formal agreement. In other cases, proving that there was any understanding about the privacy of images can be difficult.

The inherent difficulties in proving that an image was posted for malicious reasons and intended to be private may provide grounds for people to challenge charges under the revenge porn law. At the same time, many people may be left vulnerable to wrongful charges, since proving that explicit materials are not revenge porn may be difficult under these standards. Unfortunately, as with other sex crimes, a conviction may have serious long-term ramifications.

Addressing sex offense charges

Anyone facing charges under this law should appreciate the risk of serious sanctions. People who are in this position should consider meeting with a criminal defense attorney to discuss the most favorable way of handling the charges.

Keywords: sex crime, arrest, charges