Revenge Porn in Chicago: The Law and Privacy Issues

w33-zg-dnl4-rami-al-zayat-300x200Revenge porn is a crime that is gaining prominence in the age of social media. The law in Chicago took some time to catch up with the reality that some victims were being exposed to serious danger. By 2015, the state legislature had decided to write a law that set out the parameters for an effective prosecution. The leading instrument is 720 ILCS 5/11-46. At the moment revenge porn is considered to be a felony offense. In actuality, Chicago is in the minority when it comes to jurisdictions that have finally started criminalizing this type of behavior. Illinois is noted as the state with the strictest laws in this category. The crux of the offense is sharing nude or compromising images and videos of a person without his or her consent. One must have the unequivocal consent of a person in intimate images before those images can be shared.

It is entirely possible that images which are not extremely explicit can be considered to be part of a revenge porn offense. The charge can stick even if the person had originally consented to the recording of the image but was then unaware that the image was going to be distributed. Defense lawyers have argued that the definition is too wide and gives the court way too much discretion in determining what constitutes revenge porn. Chicago has different from other states in important ways as follows:

  • The intention to cause harm is not necessary for the charge to stick. All that is required is that the images or videos were distributed. Malicious intent can be an aggravating factor but its absence does not remove the charge.
  • Even where the distribution is done online, the law applies. The defendant cannot claim that they did not fall within the ambit of the law simply because he or she actually shared the offending material online rather than physically.
  • The law captures even those who have never been in an intimate relationship with the victim. That means that anyone who hacks a website and then distributes personal pictures without the consent of the parties involved would be liable for prosecution.

Proof of Standard

The intention of the law was to make it easier to prosecute those that infringed on it within the ambit of the relevant Constitutional Issues. That is why the reasonable person standard was developed rather than the guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This definition is critical when defending those who found an image and then redistributed it without having been involved in its creation or removal from its rightful owner. Under the current legal regime, it is possible to capture that class of offender. The offense can attract serious felony sanctions and therefore the defense team must be well-prepared. Currently revenge porn is treated as if it were akin to sexual assault.

The class 4 felony in Chicago can lead to a term of imprisonment ranging from one to three years. The court may in addition impose fines to the tune of up to $25,000 and order any proceeds from the distribution or sale of the offending images be forfeited.

Issues for the Defense

The important focal point for the defense team is to show that the images were not distributed at all rather than trying to show innocent motives. Because Chicago has made its laws particularly stringent, defense attorneys have to pay attention to any police guidelines and precedents that come up as the cases make their way through the courts. If you need an experienced attorney to handle your revenge porn case, contact David Freidberg Attorney at Law at 312-560-7100 to give you the best chance of preserving your freedom.

(image courtesy of Rami Al Zayat)