California Senate Stands Against Revenge Porn
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) - Taking explicit pictures or video of individuals and disseminating the material without consent on the Internet or anywhere else is now a misdemeanor under a new bill that just passed the California Senate.
SB 255, introduce by Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, has the backing of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, the California State Sheriff's Association, the Crime Victims Action Alliance and Crime Victims United of California.
The legislation punishes offenders with up to a $2,000 fine and/or a one-year jail sentence under the state's disorderly conduct law. It was inspired by a "constituent" who was upset that an ex-spouse "shared" photos that were "intimate in nature," the Sacramento Bee reported.
"'Cyber Revenge' or 'revenge porn' refers to the posting of illicit pictures of another person without his/her consent, often as retaliation following a bitter breakup between partners," Cannella said in the bill's introduction. "Existing law is silent as to the illegality of this disturbing practice ... victims of this cruel act are often so humiliated they pose a threat to harming themselves, as evidenced by numerous examples of cyber revenge victims who have taken their own lives. Cyber revenge and its ugly consequences should not be tolerated."
Sen. Leland Yee, D-Sacramento, did not support the bill, which was also opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Yee said he believes the law is too broad and could potentially undermine the First Amendment, the Sacramento Bee reported.
The ACLU agreed.
"The posting of otherwise lawful speech or images even if offensive or emotionally distressing is constitutionally protected," the ACLU said in a statement against the bill. "The speech must constitute a true threat or violate another otherwise lawful criminal law, such as a stalking or harassment statute, in order to be made illegal. The provisions of this bill do not meet that standard."
Cannella introduced the bill as an "urgency measure" because he believes the matter affects "the public peace, health or safety," according to the California Legislature's website.
The bill passed 37-1 on Aug. 15 and now heads to the state assembly before it can be sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for his approval.
The bill reads:
"Existing law provides that any person who uses a concealed camcorder, motion picture camera, or photographic camera of any type, to secretly videotape, film, photograph, or record by electronic means, another, identifiable person who may be in a state of full or partial undress, for the purpose of viewing the body of, or the undergarments worn by, that other person, without the consent or knowledge of that other person, in the interior of a bedroom, bathroom, changing room, fitting room, dressing room, or tanning booth, or the interior of any other area in which that other person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, with the intent to invade the privacy of that other person is guilty of disorderly conduct, which is a misdemeanor. Under existing law, (1) a first violation of that offense is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding 6 months, or by a fine not exceeding $1,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment, and (2) a 2nd or subsequent violation of that offense, or any violation of that offense in which the victim was, at the time of the offense, a minor, is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding $2,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment."
The legislation also provides penalties for the material's distribution.
"This bill would provide that any person who photographs or records by any means the image of another, identifiable person without his or her consent who is in a state of full or partial undress in any area in which the person being photographed or recorded has a reasonable expectation of privacy, and subsequently distributes the image taken, where the distribution of the image would cause a reasonable person to suffer serious emotional distress would constitute disorderly conduct subject to that same punishment."