It’s illegal in California to possess sexual images of someone else with the understanding that they are meant to be private, and then to share them publicly.

los angeles criminal defense lawyer“Revenge Porn” became a hot topic in the national media several years ago as a number of websites cropped up for people to share intimate photos of former partners. In response, California banned Revenge Porn in 2013.

Revenge Porn is a misdemeanor in California, punishable by up to six months in county jail.

If you or someone you love has been accused of distributing Revenge Porn, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Facing allegations of a sex crime like Revenge Porn can be personally and professionally damaging. By working together with a skilled attorney, you can safeguard not only your freedom, but your reputation as well.

What is Revenge Porn?

In order to convict someone of distribution of Revenge Porn, a prosecutor has to prove that five facts were true in the case:

  1. The defendant possessed an image of an intimate body part of another identifiable person, or an image of that person engaged in sexual intercourse.
  2. This defendant intentionally distributed the image.
  3. There was an understanding between the defendant and the person who was in the image that it would remain private.
  4. The defendant knew or should’ve known that distributing the image of the other person would cause them emotional distress.
  5. The person in the photo suffered emotional distress.

There is a lot to unpack here, and it’s all defined in California Penal Code 647j4. Let’s start with “intimate body part,” which refers to:

  • The genitals
  • The anus
  • On females, any part of the breast below the top of the areola.

Next, “intentionally distributed” means that you meant to share the image with someone else or you caused someone else to share the image. If you accidentally posted an image on social media, for example, this does not qualify as criminal distribution of Revenge Porn.

The prosecutor must show that the victim did not consent to your sharing of the image, and that you knew or should’ve known that it would cause emotional distress. If the circumstances around the case could plausibly show that you meant it as a joke, for example, it’s possible that you might not be guilty of distributing Revenge Porn.

Lastly, the prosecutor has to show that your actions caused the other person emotional distress. If it didn’t cause the other person anguish, humiliation or fury, then it certainly wasn’t a crime.

Penalties for distributing Revenge Porn

Revenge Porn is a misdemeanor in California, punishable for most first-time offenders by:

  • Up to six months in county jail, and/or
  • Fines of up to $1,000

In cases where the defendant has a prior conviction for Revenge Porn, or if the victim is a minor, penalties can rise to:

  • Up to one year in county jail, and/or
  • Fines of up to $2,000

Currently, a conviction for Revenge Porn does not require you to register on the California Sex Offender Registry, but there have been a number of attempts in the state assembly to increase the penalties for Revenge Porn to the felony level or require sex offender registration.

Defenses against Revenge Porn charges

As we mentioned, a prosecutor can only convict you of distribution of Revenge Porn if all five facts above are true.

“This man is a very effective criminal defense attorney. I was charged but I never had to go to court because the case was thrown out thanks to his efforts. I was very worried because I didn’t know anyone who could confirm my location, but he was able to prove that I was innocent.”
Jason, CA

Many of these facts are “gray areas.” How can you show in a courtroom whether someone consented or didn’t consent to having their image shared? How can you accurately show what a person’s intent was at the time they shared an image?

It comes down to how both teams of attorneys examine the facts and evidence, and present their cases.

Prosecutors and investigators are aggressive, but don’t allow yourself to be bullied. By working with a criminal defense attorney who is skilled in sex crimes and Revenge Porn cases, you can not only defend your freedom but your reputation as well.

Robert M. Helfend is a sex crimes specialist, serving the greater Los Angeles area for more than 30 years. He is rated by SuperLawyers, The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 and Lead counsel. Call today for your free case evaluation — 800-834-6434