Pennsylvania Revenge Porn Law - Pittsburgh Criminal Lawyer
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Pennsylvania’s Revenge Porn Law

Pennsylvania is one of 13 states that have criminalized revenge porn so far, becoming the fourth state to lead in this continuing trend of legislation. “Revenge porn” is when a partner, or more commonly, ex-partner, publishes intimate and/or sexually explicit pictures online in an attempt to harass, shame, or distress the person featured. It also commonly referred to by law enforcement as “non-consensual porn” and is considered by many to be intimate partner harassment.

The Pennsylvania Revenge Porn Law amends Titles 18 (Crimes and Offenses) and 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to make it illegal to publicly disseminate an intimate or explicit photo intended to be private. It also provides for making it illegal to give such an image to a third party (such as a revenge porn website) for unlawful dissemination. The law claims jurisdiction if either the victim or offender is located in Pennsylvania.

Under this law, participating in revenge porn is a second-degree misdemeanor. It is punishable with a minimum prison sentence of up to a year and fines of up to $5,000. If the person depicted is a minor, the charges are bumped up to a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable with up to five years’ incarceration and up to $10,000 in fines. The law also gives the victim the ability to recover damages in civil court.

Will this law help solve the growing revenge porn problem?

Revenge porn has become a growing problem in the United States. While publishing non-consensual sexual photographs and videos is technically made illegal by other state and federal laws, the law was murkier on what happens if a person consensually poses for or even takes a picture an then it is non-consensually passed along. This law makes is it clearer that these actions are criminal in nature, at least in Pennsylvania.

Many advocates and women’s groups have lauded this law as a first step, but hope for more stringent laws in the future. Usually, these photos are posted alongside a person’s Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts, street addresses, email addresses, places of business and phone numbers to encourage further harassment. Removing such information is technically outside the scope of this law. Sometimes these revenge porn sites include fully-clothed women with such information. While not technically revenge porn, often the emotional and social impact is the same.

Furthermore, this law does not include any way to go after the sites that post the content themselves. Changing federal law to target the hosts of sites with such content would most likely require a federal statute. Advocates hope that support for local laws may bring more focus on a potential federal law.

In the meantime, Pennsylvanians will have to wait and see how enforcement of the law affects acts of revenge porn. The new law goes into effect on September 7th, so no arrests will be made until after that time. It will be interesting to see what precedents are set in court after that date.

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