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Illinois' Sweeping New Revenge Porn Law

Posted on in Criminal Law

revenge porn law, McHenry County criminal defense lawyerThe Internet is a powerful tool for allowing people to come together, but that same ability has recently given rise to a new form of sexual harassment: revenge porn. The idea behind revenge porn is that a person, usually a woman, sends naked or sexual pictures to a boyfriend during their relationship. After the couple's relationship ends, the boyfriend posts the images online, often with identifying information. Despite the fact that this can cause serious emotional trauma and even place the women in danger, law enforcement has been largely unable to prosecute the act as a crime.

However, this has recently changed. Illinois recently passed a new law criminalizing “non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images,” a Class 4 felony with a potential sentence of one to three years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.

The Crime of Revenge Porn

The crime of revenge porn has three elements, all of which must be satisfied for a person to be guilty of it. In order to be convicted for disseminating revenge porn, an individual must (1) disseminate a nude or sexual image of someone on purpose, where that person can be identified either from the image or from accompanying information; (2) originally receive the image in such a way that he or she should have known they were supposed to keep it private; and (3) post the image without consent of the person in the picture.

Illinois' revenge porn law is notable for two factors which make it especially broad. First, it does not just apply to the original recipient of the pictures. Anyone who acquires an image and realizes that it was probably intended to be private can be prosecuted. Second, it does not require a specific motive. Most states that have revenge porn laws require that the image be posted with the intent to embarrass or harass the other person. Illinois' law does not.

First Amendment Worries

Some organizations have expressed concern over these types of laws, citing the United States' values of free speech and free expression, as protected by the First Amendment. However, those values are not absolute. It has long been understood in U.S. law that certain types of speech, such as defamation and obscenity, do not fall under the First Amendment's protection.

Still, the United States has a strong cultural respect for free speech, so the law does include an exception to the crime if the accused can demonstrate that they were publishing the pictures for some sort of public purpose, rather than just to harass the person in the picture.

The legal landscape is constantly shifting, and defendants need someone who keeps up with its changes. If you have recently been charged with a crime, contact a McHenry County criminal defense attorney today to learn more about your rights.

Illinois State Bar Association State Bar of Wisconsin Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Illinois Trial Lawyers Association McHenry County Bar Association
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