It’s called revenge porn.

In 38 different states and the District of Columbia, distributing nude images of another person without that person’s consent is a crime.

Revenge porn is also at the center of a number of civil lawsuits across the country. The military has banned it, and Facebook is also working to fight revenge porn.

As revenge porn cases flood the courts, and as digital platforms now make it possible for live video to be streamed globally in real time, revenge porn is now a growing national concern.

HOW DOES REVENGE PORN DIFFER LEGALLY FROM INVASION OF PRIVACY?

In 2013, California lawmakers placed revenge porn – legally called “non-consensual pornography” – on the state’s growing list of computer crimes.

Revenge porn is legally considered “disorderly conduct,” and it’s not quite the same charge as a related crime called “invasion of privacy” in California.

When invasion of privacy is the charge, the accused has allegedly secretly recorded sexual images of another person or persons.

California also enforces an “anti-paparazzi” statute that forbids trespassing with the intent to record any kind of images.

IF YOU ARE CHARGED WITH REVENGE PORN, WHERE CAN YOU TURN?

Revenge porn, however, involves images or recordings made initially with the subject’s consent, but with the understanding that the images or recordings would stay private.

In fact, it’s no surprise to anyone that revenge porn is most frequently alleged when a romantic situation has gone bad.

In southern California, if you are charged with posting nonconsensual pornography on the internet, you’ll need to consult an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney.

You’ll also need an attorney’s help if you are accused of a related crime – like an invasion of privacy.

WHAT IS THE PENALTY FOR A REVENGE PORN CONVICTION?

In California, the distribution of non-consensual pornography is a misdemeanor punishable upon conviction by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

A second offense is punishable upon conviction by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

HOW DOES CALIFORNIA DEFINE REVENGE PORN?

How does California criminal law define the crime of non-consensual pornography? These are the five elements of the crime that a prosecutor must prove to win a conviction:

1. The offender possesses a sexually explicit image of an “intimate body part” of someone who can be clearly identified, and/or an image of that person engaging in some type of “sexual act.”

2. There is a mutual agreement that the image or images should stay concealed.

3. Nevertheless, the offender intentionally posts, publishes, or otherwise distributes the image or images.

4. The offender knows – or should know – that his action will damage the victim emotionally.

5. The victim, in fact, does experience severe distress as a result of the offender’s action.

WHAT IF THE VICTIM OF REVENGE PORN IS A MINOR?

The California Penal Code explicitly defines the phrases “intimate body part” and “sexual act,” and those phrases mean precisely what you would think they mean.

The penalties for nonconsensual pornography can be even harsher if the victim is a minor, in which case child pornography charges might also apply.

Revenge porn, however, is a relatively new crime, boosted by the rise of digital photography and the internet, so some still may not know the full consequences of distributing revenge porn.

HOW CAN A REVENGE PORN CONVICTION IMPACT YOUR LIFE?

Aside from the criminal penalties, a person who distributes revenge porn images will probably find himself or herself on the wrong end of a civil personal injury lawsuit filed by the victim.

A number of verdicts have been returned in favor of revenge porn victims – one award was $500,000.

If you hold a professional license, it could be suspended or revoked after a revenge porn conviction.

If you are applying to certain colleges or graduate schools for acceptance or to certain companies for employment, your application could be rejected on the basis of a revenge porn conviction.

HOW CAN A DEFENSE LAWYER HELP YOU?

If you are charged with distributing nonconsensual pornography in southern California, you’ll need to be represented by an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney.

You’ll need a lawyer who is familiar with the revenge porn law and the legal defenses that are effective in these cases.

Of course, a criminal charge is not a conviction, and in fact, it is not usually easy for the state to prove a defendant’s guilt in a revenge porn case “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

But you’ll need a good defense attorney’s help.

HOW MIGHT AN ATTORNEY DEFEND YOU IN A REVENGE PORN CASE?

For example, it’s possible that someone else may have distributed revenge porn images from your computer or from another device without your knowledge or consent.

It’s also possible that you were simply confused or distracted, and you posted or distributed what you thought was a different image.

If police officers violated your rights in order to obtain evidence against you for a revenge porn charge, it’s possible in some cases that the charge can be dismissed.

Finally, and depending on the nature of a defendant’s relationship with a victim, the whole thing may have been based on a misunderstanding, and no emotional damage was intended.

Intent to cause emotional damage – the fourth element that a prosecutor must prove to win a revenge porn case – can be the most difficult of the five elements to prove in a criminal court.

In many revenge porn cases, a good defense attorney will find a way to downplay or eliminate entirely the element of intent.

Moreover, in many revenge porn cases, proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a victim actually suffered emotional distress can be a genuine challenge for the state.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PROBLEMS WITH REVENGE PORN LAWS?

Across the nation, in fact, prosecutors have complained that revenge porn crimes are difficult to prosecute and that the language of the laws is too vague.

Police officers may not be familiar with the new statutes, and many officers are probably unsure about how to build a revenge porn case against a suspect.

The American Civil Liberties Union even challenged Arizona’s revenge porn law as a violation of the right to freedom of speech.

CAN WEBSITE OWNERS BE HELD LIABLE FOR REVENGE PORN?

Under federal law, states cannot impose civil or criminal liability on website operators who republish user submissions because website operators are not liable for third-party content.

If you are charged with nonconsensual pornography, invasion of privacy, or any related crime in southern California, obtain experienced criminal defense representation at once.

Especially if you didn’t mean to hurt anyone or break any law, it can be genuinely disturbing to face this kind of criminal accusation.

A good criminal defense lawyer can explain your rights, protect your rights, and advocate aggressively for justice on your behalf.