Arizona’s New Revenge Porn Law

8/52 My Shadow by Scarleth Marie from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

8/52 My Shadow by Scarleth Marie from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Governor Brewer recently signed HB 2515, which made “revenge porn” a felony in Arizona. The official name for this law will be Unlawful Distribution of Private Images and it will be added to the Arizona criminal code as Arizona Revised Statute § 13-1425.

This new law, “Prohibits a person from intentionally disclosing, displaying, distributing, publishing, advertising or offering a photograph, videotape, film or digital recording of a person in a state of nudity or engaged in specific sexual activities if the person knows or should have known that the depicted person has not consented to the disclosure.” It also amends the domestic violence law (A.R.S. § 13-3601) by stating that revenge porn can be a type of domestic violence.

If you are arrested for violating this law, you will be charged with a Class 5 Felony (punishable by at least 6 months’ imprisonment and up to $150,000 fine), unless the person in the image or videos is recognizable, then you’ll be charged with a Class 4 Felony (punishable by at least 1 year in jail and up to $150,000 fine). When I first saw these punishments, I thought they were overly harsh, but then I noted that these are the same penalties for people who are found guilty of voyeurism in Arizona.

This law goes into effect on July 24, 2014. Arizona law enforcement has until then to develop their policies regarding how these crimes will be investigated and train their staff. Arizona already has a law against cyberharassment, so I suspect the policy for the new law will be similar to the procedures they have in place for this.

These are some of my thoughts about this new law:

  • I suspect the distribution of revenge porn applies to sending images or videos from person-to-person via text or email as well as widespread postings on websites. I can easily see a group of high school kids being accused of violating this law for passing around a naked selfie of one of their classmates that the victim meant for only their significant other to see. It could also be a felony just to show the image to one person.
  • Did you notice that the law applies to “offering” an image or video? I think that means you could be guilty even if you just offer to share someone else’s naked photo without the person’s consent, even if the potential recipient declines. These situations would probably be hard to prove unless the conversation was recorded or documented via text messages or email.

I’m curious to see how this law will impact existing revenge porn. If someone posted a photo of you on a revenge porn site this month and it’s still up when the law goes into effect in July, can the victim turn the alleged perpetrator in at that time with the claim that by staying on the internet, the crime is ongoing? Or will the victim have to wait until someone posts or sends the photo/video again after the law goes into effect to file a claim?

My rule of thumb is, “Think before you post.” Once an image or a message is sent, you can never fully take it back. Even if you have a revenge porn claim and the person is justly prosecuted, that image of you is still out there and you have no control over who’s seen it and it’s hard to chase down every place it might be posted to try to get it removed.

(Note: This video was made in March 2013, before the revenge porn law was passed, and not every state has a specific law about revenge porn.)

If you think you’ve been a victim of cyberharassment or revenge porn, please contact your local law enforcement agency.

If you want to learn more about revenge porn, please check out my book The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed. It has an entire chapter dedicated to invasion of privacy. You can connected with me on TwitterFacebookYouTubeLinkedIn, or you can email me. You can also subscribe to the Carter Law Firm newsletter.
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