Revenge Porn Law – California Penal Code 647(j)(4)

California legislators passed a revenge porn law making it a crime for anyone to post online photos or videos of someone’s intimate body parts without consent. The revenge porn law is defined under California Penal Code 647(J)(4) and often considered a type of nonconsensual pornography.

In other words, “revenge porn” is a phrase that refers to the posting of intimate photos of someone on the Internet in an effort to get even with them. This law is a powerful tool for prosecutors to protect victims that have had their reputation tarnished by another person they used to trust.

The revenge porn law also makes it a crime to spread online someone engaging in sexual intercourse or performing sex acts without their consent. PC 647(j)(4) is similar to invasion of privacy laws, when somebody secretly records sexual related videos or takes photos of someone without their knowledge or consent.

Invasion of privacy laws are not the same as the revenge porn laws because the victim initially gave consent to take sexual related photos or videos with an understanding they would remain private, but the person distributes them without consent.

In most revenge porn cases, the distribution of sexual related images and videos occurs by posting them on the internet without the victim knowing or allowing it. These type of criminal cases often occur after a relationship ends on bad terms, and one of the former partners, typically male, is seeking revenge.

If you have been accused of revenge porn, you should consult with a criminal defense lawyer immediately. In order to give readers a better understanding of the revenge porn law, our California criminal defense attorneys are providing an overview below.

Definition of Penal Code 647(J)(4) – Revenge Porn

California Penal Code 647(J)(4), defines the crime of revenge porn:

“Anyone who intentionally distributes images of the intimate body parts of an identifiable person, or images that depict them engaging in sexual intercourse, sodomy, oral copulation, sexual penetration, or masturbation, in circumstances where they agree or understand the images will remain private, then they distribute the images knowing they will cause serious emotional distress, is guilty of revenge porn.”

It should be noted that an “intimate body part” is any portion of the genitals, anus, and if female, it includes any part of their breasts either uncovered or clearly visible through clothing. You “intentionally distribute” an image when you personally distribute it, arrange, specifically request, or intentionally cause someone to distribute it.

What Does the Prosecutor Have to Prove?

In order to be convicted of Penal Code 647(J)(4) revenge porn, the prosecutor has to prove all the elements of the crime, beyond any reasonable doubt:

  • You possessed an image of an intimate body part of an identifiable person, or they were engaged in in sexual intercourse, sodomy, oral copulation or masturbation
  • You had a mutual understanding they would remain private
  • You intentionally distributed the image
  • You knew the distribution of the image would cause serious emotional distress to the person; and
  • The victim who was depicted actually suffered serious emotional distress

It should be noted the revenge porn law also applies when the image distribution has the chance to incite harassment from a third party.

In other words, knowing that a course of conduct directed at the victim that a reasonable person would consider annoying or alarming, when the distribution of the image doesn’t serve a legitimate purpose.

Penalties for PC 647(J)(4) Revenge Porn

 If convicted of the sex crime of revenge porn in violation of California Penal Code 647(J)(4), you are guilty of a misdemeanor crime.

The penalties for a first offense include up to 6 months in a county jail, a fine up to $1,000, and misdemeanor summary probation.  If you are a repeat offender, or have a prior invasion of privacy conviction, or if the victim was a minor, the penalties will increase up to one year in county jail and a fine up to $2,000.

It should be noted that if the revenge porn victim was a minor, you could potentially be facing California child pornography charges.

Fighting California Revenge Porn Charges

Our criminal attorneys could use a range of legal strategies to defend you against revenge porn charges, including:

Lack of intent

Recall the elements of the crime above that states the act of distributing the sexual related images of video must be intentional. We might be able to make an argument the upload was made by another individual or it was accidental.

Consent

Recall the revenge porn definition where it states it’s only a criminal act when there was a mutual understanding that the images would remain private. We might be able to make a reasonable argument the alleged victim gave consent to post the images or videos online and there was no prior understanding they would not be distributed.

Perhaps we could prove there was an actual agreement the sexual related material would be posted online.

Lack of emotional distress

We might be able to argue that you didn’t intend to cause the alleged victim emotional distress, or that they didn’t suffer serious emotional distress.

Recall the prosecutor has to show the victim sustained serious emotional trauma. We might be able to cast doubt on the actual level of alleged distress by the victim.

Unidentifiable victim

Recall again that in order to be convicted of revenge porn, the sexual related material has to be as “identifiable person.” We might be able to make an argument the person in the images or videos can be positively identified.

If we cast reasonable doubt regarding the material showing an identifiable person, then you could have a good chance at avowing a conviction.

If you have been charged with revenge porn under California Penal Code 647(J)(4), call our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers to thoroughly review all the details in order to determine an appropriate strategy for the most favorable outcome.

Cron, Israels & Stark is a criminal defense law firm located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Contact us for a free case review at (424) 372-3112.