Massachusetts Legislature Considers Criminalizing Revenge Porn

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is in the process of creating a law to resolve an issue about how “revenge porn” cases are decided. Recently, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito joined a Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley in promoting legislation that would prohibit “revenge porn” and reshape laws concerning sexting between juveniles. Governor Baker commented that while the state has laws punishing the non-consensual recording of sex acts and genitalia, "Our laws do not address...when a person takes a sexually explicit image or recording that was lawfully obtained and then distributes it with the intent to harm the person depicted and without that person's consent."

Proposed Revenge Porn Law

This new “revenge porn” law would primarily apply to individuals over the age of eighteen. A violation of the proposed “revenge porn” law would result in an individual who distributes this pornography facing up to five years in state prison and a $10,000 fine. A judge would also be permitted to order defendants to remove sexually explicit images.

Proposed Law Regarding Juveniles

The new law would require that minors (under the age of 18), who distribute sexually explicit images, attend educational diversion programs rather than being tried by the juvenile justice system. The law would also require schools to educate students about the relationship between sexually explicit depictions of minors and cyber-bullying. Governor Baker announced that this legislation would protect children in Massachusetts and attempt to educate minors about the dangers of this offense rather than penalize these juveniles. Currently, law in the state of Massachusetts results in individuals who engage in such activity being subject to prosecution for the distribution or possession of child pornography.

The Future of Revenge Porn Laws

Several states close to Massachusetts have also recently enacted laws regarding revenge porn. In 2015, Vermont and Connecticut passed criminal laws prohibiting individuals from knowingly disseminating intimate images of another person without that individual’s consent provided that the individual does so with the intent to harass or threaten the other person. In 2016, New Hampshire’s Governor signed a bill prohibiting the distribution of private sexual images of another person that are taken without their consent. In 2016, Maine initiated the first criminal trial against an individual who was alleged with violating the state’s revenge laws. Early in 2017, the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed a bill to ban revenge porn and criminalize posting sexually explicit pictures online without the consent of the individual depicted.

Civil Consequences of Disseminating Sexually Explicit Images and Videos

Revenge porn victims may choose to pursue civil actions against those who disseminate and distribute the compromising material. If you are accused of "sharing" photos or videos of another person engaged in a sex act or sexually explicit position, you may be liable for monetary damages. In other words, you may be sued by the victim in addition to the criminal charges.

Consider this scenario: you are young, ambitious, and slightly reckless. You and your partner make a sex tape. You are proud of it, so you show it you your friends; you share screen-shots on WhatsApp, text message, etc. Your friends think it's funny, so they share the material with their friends, and so on. Your significant other learns of the dissemination. You get dumped. The police are notified. You are charged with a sex crime. You get sued. You regret what you've done. Now, your life goals and dreams are significantly compromised. The police, prosecutors, and civil lawyer care very little about your regret or remorse; they believe that you should be punished and that you should pay.

Lesson 1: Don't record your sex acts.

Lesson 2: Don't take naked photos of yourself.

Lesson 3: If you do record sex acts and/or naked photos of yourself, do not share them.

Attorney Henry Fasoldt Represents People Accused of Disseminating naked photos or videos. He also represents them when they get sued. If you are charged with disseminating obscene material, or you are being threatened with a lawsuit for this type of behavior, call Attorney Henry Fasoldt. He can help.