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Revenge Porn Bill Lands on Governor Rick Scott’s Desk

Scorned lovers should now be on notice that they must be careful and cognizant of the type of social media posts that they might consider publishing about an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend. After reaching both chambers of the Florida Legislature, Governor Rick Scott received a bill that would criminalize the spreading and/or publishing of sexually explicit images and videos, also known as revenge porn. Once signed into law, Florida will be the 18th state in the U.S. to publish a statute criminalizing the practice. Another dozen or so states have legislation currently being drafted to criminalize revenge porn.

First Amendment Concerns

Though advocates of the First Amendment are wary of passing legislation that could limit the use of free speech, most believe the legislation is specific enough that it limits harmful actions that can have emotional, psychological, and reputational consequences. Advocates in favor of the measure believe it does not go far enough due to the House ending their session early, and passing on a version of the bill to the Senate that many believe does not have enough bite.

The Revenge Porn Bill

SB 538, which passed by a 38-2 vote in the Senate, will make it a crime to post sexually explicit photos or videos with identifying information about a person, without that person’s consent, and with the intention to cause emotional distress. Revenge porn has been found to significantly affect the lives of those victims through psychological and emotional damage, as well as reputational damage. Many could lose employment and suffer significant embarrassment due to the images published.

The Weakness Surrounding the Bill

Many believe though the bill is effective, it is still weak because of the following:

the offense of the sexual cyberharassment only encompasses photos/videos that have been posted to social media, and not applied to dissemination through text or email; and

for an offense to be committed, identifying information must be included within the email, such as the name of the victim, his/her phone number, address or other information. In other words, showing the face of a person is not enough to qualify.

Search Powers Overly Broad to Police

Also, the search power given to the police is considered overly broad. Under the bill, a police officer may be issued a search warrant based on the officer’s probable cause belief that the residence has any type of evidence that could demonstrate that sexual cyberharassment has been committed, which is an extremely low threshold for invading a person’s home.

Penalties for Revenge Porn in Florida

The Florida legislature is proving that this is a significant offense with the implementation of the corresponding penalties for revenge porn. For a defendant who is caught for a first offense for revenge porn, he/she is only charged with a misdemeanor. A second offense can be punishable with a possible fine of up to $5,000 and attorney’s fees, as well as with a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Right to Standing for Civil Claims

The bill also provides victims standing to initiate a civil claim against the publisher of their sexually explicit photos, permitting recovery in the form of injunctive relief, money damages as a result of the damages incurred due to the publishing of the photos.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

If you have been arrested on charges involving revenge porn and believe that your actions do not constitute an offense, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik about the details of your case. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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