'Revenge Porn' Law Now in Effect in Calif. - FindLaw Blotter
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'Revenge Porn' Law Now in Effect in Calif.

California has outlawed revenge porn, in a bill that was signed into law this week. It immediately serves to make this spiteful, harassing practice a crime.

As Reuters reports, the new law targets an increasing number of persons posting nude images of an ex-romantic partner online as "a way of exacting revenge after a breakup."

What exactly does this law say, and what does it mean for California breakups?

California Law Criminalizes 'Revenge Porn'

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 255 into law on Tuesday, with the bill's provisions going immediately into effect. The bill created a new category of law for revenge porn, amending the California Penal Code statute which criminalizes "peeping tom" type photographing. It applies the same punishment to someone who makes revenge porn using private photos of an ex.

More specifically, the bill defines the criminal act as:

  • Any person who photographs or records
  • The image of the intimate body part or parts
  • Of another identifiable person
  • Under circumstances where the parties agree or understand the image is private and
  • Distributes the image(s)
  • With intent to cause serious emotional distress, and
  • The person in the photos suffers emotional distress.

Like other crimes in the same statute, revenge porn is now a misdemeanor in the Golden State, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for a first offense.

This law was intended to protect victims of revenge porn who, up until now, had to rely on civil privacy lawsuits in order to stop their harassers.

Critics Point Out Loophole in Law

California is only the second state in the nation to criminalize revenge porn -- after New Jersey -- but critics worry about loopholes in the law.

One vocal anti-"revenge porn" crusader told CBS News that while California is moving "in the right direction," she and other advocates are concerned that "the statute does not cover photographs initially taken by the victim."

Since teens and adults often take nude photos of themselves ("selfies") and send them to romantic interests, the law may not criminalize the recipient from distributing that picture online. In other words, revenge porn that is not "photographed or recorded" by the spiteful ex may technically be outside of the limits of the new law.

This may lead to criminal prosecution only in a slim set of revenge porn cases, leaving those who sexted or emailed nude selfies to their exes to duke it out in civil court.

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