Revenge Porn

We live in the digital era where just about everyone owns or can access internet-based devices. This has drastically increased the number of cyber-crimes reported annually. One of the “new” yet common cyber harassment crimes in this age is revenge porn. It is a video or image-based form of sexual abuse/cyber exploitation where the perpetrator shares a person's intimate or sexual images or videos without their consent and with ill motives. If you face revenge porn charges in Pasadena, California, turn to us for help. At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we have a proven track record of providing outstanding defense for persons accused of violating California’s Penal Code section 647(j). Our skilled team will help you navigate the due legal process and give you optimal chances of enjoying a suitable outcome.

A conviction can do more than just leave you paying a fine of up to $1,000 or spending a maximum of 6 months behind bars. It can also lead to stigmatization, take a toll on your dating life and even limit you from enjoying specific job opportunities. Whether you are guilty or falsely accused, we can provide just the legal help you need.

The Legal Definition of Revenge Porn/Nonconsensual Pornography (NCP)

Revenge porn, also referred to as non-consensual pornography (NCP), is the crime of distributing another individual’s sexually-explicit photos or videos without their consent. This act is done with malicious intent to cause embarrassment or emotional distress.

California’s Penal Code section 647(j)(4) describes the crime as:

  1. The intentional distribution of sexually explicit videos or photos of another person showing off their private body part as they participate in oral copulation, masturbation, sexual intercourse, sexual penetration, or sodomy.
  2. The distribution of sexually explicit videos or images that were to be kept private between a victim and the defendant — In this case, the perpetrator of a crime distributes the content to punish the victim or cause emotional distress. The crime covers images or videos showing the victim engaging in sexual intercourse or with their private parts (breasts, buttocks, or genitals) bare or barely covered.

Merely distributing sexually explicit images or videos of another person can attract misdemeanor charges. California laws don’t require the action to be revenge-based as long as the prosecution can prove that you intended to embarrass the victim or cause emotional distress.

While most defendants happen to be ex-lovers or estranged sweethearts, even strangers can be convicted if they post or share illicitly obtained sexual images or videos of other people. This is seen as an invasion of privacy if a defendant records, shares, or posts the private or sexually explicit photos or videos of another individual without their knowledge or approval.

According to California’s Penal Code 647(j), a defendant can invade someone else’s privacy by:

  • Setting up concealed/ hidden cameras to view another person’s body or private parts.
  • Using an electronic device to view someone discreetly and without their knowledge or approval

It remains imperative to understand that statutes prohibiting privacy invasion don’t require the perpetrator to share or distribute illicitly secured images or videos. The prosecution merely needs to prove that you obtained the materials in question through an invasion of privacy.

When Is Nonconsensual Pornography (NCP) Not Considered Illegal?

California’s PC 647(j)(4) further outlines instances where despite sharing the explicit sexual materials of a person, such actions or behaviors don’t meet the legal definition of nonconsensual pornography or revenge porn.

Here are a few instances where it is not a crime to share the private/ sexually explicit photos or videos of another person.

When Reporting a Crime or Unlawful Activity

A defendant is not guilty of revenge porn if he/she shares the sexually explicit materials of a person with the intent to unveil a rape case. The courts will see this as an attempt to report and provide evidence about illegal activity.

During Public Legal Proceedings

Again, it is not a crime to provide the sexually explicit materials of another person upon the court’s demand. In this case, failure to provide the materials as requested by the courts could be deemed an obstruction of justice.

When Complying With Court Orders

It is perfectly legal to provide the sexually explicit content of another person when adhering to a subpoena or court order. The courts may demand such content during court proceedings, especially when dealing with sex crime cases.

Elements of Revenge Porn

For a defendant to face penalties under California’s PC 647(j)(4) for nonconsensual pornography or revenge porn, the prosecution must prove a few key elements.

Let’s first outline the legal meaning of a few key terms used to describe the elements of revenge porn:

Intimate Body Part

This refers to body parts such as:

  • The anus
  • The genitals
  • A portion of the breasts

Identifiable Person

For a defendant to commit the crime of revenge porn, the person in the sexually explicit materials must be “identifiable.” A victim cannot claim to suffer emotional distress over photos or images where they are not identifiable. However, the courts will still consider a case where a victim’s face is unidentifiable, but someone can recognize them through other distinct features such as a tattoo, birthmark, scar, clothes, or the background.

Intentional Distribution

A defendant “intentionally distributes” an image or video if he or she shares or posts the material online or requests someone else to do this on their behalf. Distribution can be done via mail, text, social media, or in person.

Unfortunately, most victims learn about their content through family members, employers, classmates, colleagues, or friends. In addition to the leaked sexual content making them feel tormented, threatened, stalked, and embarrassed, they may be fired from their current posts, feel forced to leave current occupations and even find it challenging to find work in the future. 

California’s Penal Code (PC 647(j)(4)) tasks the prosecution with proving that:

  • A defendant intentionally distributed the sexually explicit (showing intimate body parts) images or videos of an identifiable person (the victim) with the intent to cause emotional distress or embarrassment.
  • The victim suffered emotional anguish because of a defendant’s actions
  • The images or photos of a victim were taken under circumstances in which the defendant was to ensure they remain private

If convicted, a defendant risks spending up to 6 months behind bars in county jail and paying a fine that does not exceed $1,000.

Revenge porn can take a toll on just about every aspect of the life of a victim. While the crime is a misdemeanor, it is typical of the courts to make examples of defendants to dissuade the public from committing similar crimes. We can offer you the best sex crimes defense attorney to help you battle your charges and achieve the most suitable outcome.

Common Legal Defenses for Revenge Porn

The complex nature of revenge porn laws makes it imperative for you to find a skilled lawyer the instant charges are made against you. The expert will study a victim’s claims and analyze the available evidence to formulate the best possible defense. The ideal defense strategies to use could vary from one case to another.

Some of the best legal defenses include:

The Sexually Explicit Materials Don’t Have an “Identifiable Person”

It is hard for a defendant to be convicted if the person appearing in sexually explicit content is hardly identifiable. One of the critical elements the prosecution needs to prove is that a victim appears in specific recordings or images, and people who see the sexual content can identify them.

If the shared materials lack a clear face, a defendant may still not be in the clear. The prosecution can still satisfy the element of having an “identifiable person” if the individual in the images or videos has distinct features such as a tattoo or birthmark.

Depending on the presented evidence, a defendant can deny that a victim appears in shared photos or videos. This can be a valid defense if the person’s face appearing in sexually explicit content is not clear and cannot be identified using unique features.

The Sharing Was Unintentional

The prosecution must prove that you intentionally shared the sexually explicit materials of another person. Sometimes, a defendant can distribute such content unintentionally. For instance, a defendant may accidentally attach the wrong file to a thread of emails. With the right attorney, you can work on gathering evidence that proves your innocence.

You Had Permission to Share the Content

It is not alien for a victim to consent to the sharing of sexually explicit materials only to change their mind later. The prosecution can’t make a conviction if a defendant distributed the content with the victim’s approval before changing their mind. You need a lawyer that can present the necessary evidence and put up a strong argument in your defense.

The Victim Didn’t Suffer Emotional Distress.

Another element the prosecution must prove is that leaking the sexually explicit materials of a victim caused them emotional distress. It is hard to prove pain or emotional anguish, and a competent attorney can find clever ways to cast doubt on a victim’s emotional distress. This defense tends to work better in cases where the defendant and victim once shared a positive relationship.

An Overview of How the Prosecution Builds a Case

The prosecution bears the duty of proving the elements of revenge porn beyond a reasonable doubt. For the authorities to satisfy the specified elements, they must first gather evidence and sometimes even interview witnesses to prove the defendant’s guilt.

Here is what to expect once charges are made against you:

Step 1 — Victim Files a Report With the Police

Building a case against a defendant is not an easy affair. Typically, this process starts by working with the police and reviewing a victim’s report as well as any relevant evidence available at the moment.

It remains imperative to understand that how a case is handled right from the start could significantly impact its outcome. How the police handle the initial report may determine whether the prosecution has enough grounds to file charges against you. For any case to kick start, a victim needs to provide substantial evidence and information. This may include their location, the leaked photos, and the whereabouts of the offender.

Step 2 — Defendant is Placed in Custody

If the police have a concrete report and enough evidence against a defendant, the prosecution can now officially file charges. This also allows the authorities to obtain an arrest warrant to place a defendant into custody.

You need to have a reliable sex crimes attorney by your side the moment the authorities arrest you. A skilled expert can attempt to negotiate with the prosecution at this point. The expert will also gather critical facts about your case and begin to forge the best way forward.

Step 3 — Prepare For an Arraignment in Court

If you are arrested and arraigned in court, the prosecution may offer a better or lighter sentence if you agree to enter a guilty plea. This saves the taxpayers money and also allows the courts to spend as little time as possible on your case. The downside to taking a guilty plea is that you deprive yourself of the opportunity to put up a defense and possibly enjoy a better outcome.

The justice system may not be easy and straightforward, especially if you lack comprehensive training on legal matters. Most defendants don’t know that the plea deal is still open even during the pretrial process. With the right lawyer in your corner, you can learn about your legal options and plan on enjoying the most suitable outcome.

Step 4 — Discovery Process

If you don’t accept the plea deal during the arraignment, the case will proceed to the discovery process. This is where your attorney will evaluate the lawsuit based on the prosecution’s evidence and arguments. If the lawyer suspects the prosecution lacks what it takes to convict you, it will be easier to negotiate for a better deal, an acquittal, or a dismissal.

The available evidence will help to determine the weight of a case. Things can become murky for a defendant if a victim has plenty of proof and can even call upon expert witnesses to back up the allegations made against you. It takes having a reliable defense team for you to fight the charges and still have a chance of enjoying a good outcome.

Step 5 — Pretrial Phase

At this point of the process, the prosecution and defense team negotiate and strive to find a suitable solution. Usually, this is the ideal time for your attorney to consider the plea deal and renegotiate based on your case’s current circumstances. Again, based on the case’s unique circumstances, it could be resolved at this point or moved to trial.

Step 6 — Trial Phase

If the case proceeds to trial, the prosecution will start by presenting its case against you. Your attorney can then table the defense, allowing the jury to determine whether the evidence against you makes you innocent or guilty as charged. The judge will then consider all factors presented during the trial before making a ruling.

You must not overlook the need to work with experienced sex crime attorneys. We have close ties with the prosecution, which often helps us achieve the best outcome, even when there is strong evidence against the defendant. For instance, we could use this close relationship to negotiate for probation and save our client from spending time behind bars.

Revenge Porn Penalties

Not all revenge porn cases begin with a defendant’s malicious attempts to deface a victim or cause them emotional trauma. Some start as mere pranks and quickly get out of hand because of other vices, including jealousy. Either way, revenge porn is a serious crime that can pose more than just emotional harm to the victim.

If convicted of the offense in California, you may suffer harsh repercussions, including:

  • Six months incarceration
  • A fine of not more than $1,000

Like most sex crimes, the aftermath of a revenge porn conviction may depend on the severity of the charges made against you. For instance, the penalty is higher if the victim of a crime is below 18 years.

When a minor is involved, the penalty may escalate to:

  • A minimum of 1 year in jail
  • A fine of not more than $2,000

In this case, the offense is no longer perceived as a misdemeanor but a felony. The defendant may face extra charges for possession of child pornography, and this attracts heavier penalties than revenge porn.

A defendant may also violate other California Penal Codes, including:

  • California’s Penal Code (Cal. PC § 653.2) — Harassment using an electronic device
  • California’s Penal Code (Cal. PC § 502) — Unauthorized use of an electronic device

Violating the above Penal Codes attracts one year in jail and a fine not exceeding $1,000 and up to 3 years in jail, and a fine not less than $10,000, respectively. Additionally, a victim may choose to go even further and use the civil tort law to open additional lawsuits against you. This means that apart from facing a revenge pornography criminal conviction, you may also have to make a substantial civil lawsuit payout.

The penalties mentioned above apply to first-time offenders. If convicted for the second time, a defendant may spend up to a year in jail instead of six months. Additionally, revenge porn leaves behind a permanent criminal record that may attract a whole array of collateral repercussions, including:

  • Compromised employment opportunities
  • Loss of specific job opportunities (education, government, healthcare, and more)
  • Challenges finding suitable housing within specific neighborhoods
  • An unfavorable outcome when dealing with child custody cases

Furthermore, the courts may order that you:

  • Enroll in a domestic violence program
  • Sign up for a 1-year batterer’s program
  • Surrender your gun rights for ten years (if convicted of a misdemeanor)
  • abide by the requirements of a restraining order from the victim

Revenge porn is considered a grave crime in California. The prosecution often goes out of its way to ensure justice is served to the victims. Fortunately, we can help you protect your future and best interests. After reviewing your case and determining the best defense to use, we will work with the prosecution to ensure your arrest’s consequences are minimized.

Understanding the Relationship Between Revenge Porn and Domestic Violence

In California, revenge porn and domestic violence are closely related because social media is increasingly used to harass people with close familial ties. According to the Family Violence Protection Act, domestic violence is defined as adverse behavior towards someone you share an intimate relationship with. This behavior can be:

  • Sexually or physically abusive
  • Coercive
  • Economically abusive

Furthermore, the laws define domestic violence as acts that can control or dominate another person, making them fear that their wellbeing or safety is in harm’s way. Revenge porn is seen as an act of domestic violence because it can cause emotional distress and embarrassment to a victim that once shared an intimate relationship with the perpetrator.

In light of the ever-increasing technological advancements, revenge porn is commonplace, and more legal reforms are needed to impose harsher penalties on those convicted of the crime. Lawmakers agree that not even the current punishments can entirely wipe out the shame, embarrassment, horror, and fear experienced by victims.

If accused of revenge porn, it is in your best interests to have a dependable defense team in your corner. Merely sharing the sexually explicit images or videos of another person can tag along with numerous other charges and penalties. Once you are charged, your fate is highly at the mercy of your defense team’s competence.

Find a Pasadena Criminal Attorney Near Me

Even though revenge porn only attracts misdemeanor charges, a conviction can have devastating repercussions. California laws classify the crime as domestic violence because of the intimate relationship once shared between a victim and the defendant. Like other domestic violence crimes, nonconsensual pornography (NCP) charges are taken seriously because of their ability to cause physical and psychological harm to a victim. At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we specialize in providing the best defense for those accused of Revenge Porn or related charges. Our in-depth understanding of criminal laws that cover NCP puts us in a position to achieve the best possible outcome even when dealing with the most complex cases. For more information about revenge porn and how we can help you call us at 626-689-2277.

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