Legislative Watch: Pennsylvania “Revenge Porn” Bill Passes Senate

By: Dave Mueller, Criminal Defense Attorney

Our criminal defense attorneys are watching legislation that would create a new criminal offense outlawing what has commonly been referred to in the media as “revenge porn.” PA Senate Bill 1167 of 2014, sailed through the Senate by a 49-0 vote and now heads to the House for consideration. If passed, the bill would create the new offense of “Intimate Partner Harassment,” which would outlaw:

[E]xposing a photograph, film, videotape or similar recording of the identifiable image of an intimate partner who is nude or explicitly engaged in a sexual act to the view of a third party for no legitimate purpose and with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm the person depicted.

Of note in the current version is that the law would provide a defense for those who share images or recordings with the consent of the person depicted. However, consent would be an affirmative defense, meaning that the accused would bear the burden of proving that consent existed. This is unusual for a criminal offense, and would create a lower burden compared to other similar laws, where the Commonwealth bears the burden of proving a lack of consent beyond a reasonable doubt. What this means in practice is that one who shares an image or recording with the permission of the other party may be put in a position requiring that person to “prove innocence” by presenting affirmative evidence of consent.

Also of note in the current version is that the law would exclude conduct that otherwise falls within the current law against Transmission of Sexually Explicit Images by a Minor. Put simply, what this means is that minors who share certain types of explicit images involving other minors may be subject to the often less serious sanctions of that existing law, but not of Intimate Partner Harassment under the new law.

If made into law, Intimate Partner Harassment would be a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a $5000 fine. However, if the person depicted is a minor, the offense would be a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

If you or anyone you know has been charged with or accused of any of the above offenses, or any criminal offense in Pennsylvania, contact us today for a no-charge consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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