Is Revenge Porn Protected Under First Amendment Rights? Maybe in Illinois!

This is a really interesting story about a woman who believes that sharing naked pictures of her ex fiance’s other girlfreind is part of her right to free speech. But is revenge porn covered under First Amendment rights?

Is posting revenge porn online a First Amendment right?

Matthew Rychlik and Bethany Austin, an engaged couple from Illinois, were happily picking out cake flavors and selecting flowers for their upcoming ceremony. Then Austin found naked pictures of another woman on Rychlik’s phone! It’s amazing how a little infidelity can put a damper on someone’s desire to walk the aisle with you. And as you can imagine, Austin was mad. However, she was willing to try and work it out.

Rychlik, on the other hand, didn’t seem very invested in saving this engagement. For starters, it seems that both he and the woman who was sending him nude selfies knew that the messages they were exchanging were going directly to Austin’s iPad. So there’s that. But once she discovered the nudie pics and tried to work out her relationship with her fiance, Rychlik told everyone she never cooked or cleaned, and that they were no longer an item. At that point Austin got mad.

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”

In response to Rychlik’s allegations, Austin composed a letter to all of their mutual friends and family members, explaining what had happened. In it she included copies of all the nude selfies Rychlik’s other girlfriend had sent him. But as soon as that happened she was in trouble for violating Illinois’ revenge porn law, which (similar to Michigan’s law) says that you’re not allowed to disseminate sexually explicit images of someone without their permission. And Austin definitely didn’t have the woman’s permission.

Once the case made it to trial, however, Austin argued that the law violated her First Amendment right to free speech. Interestingly, the trial court agreed with her. Their reasoning? The revenge porn law doesn’t serve a compelling government interest since the potential damage done by revenge porn is entirely speculative. 

So what happened next? Is revenge porn protected by free speech laws?

The state of Illinois presented the case to their Supreme Court, and defended their revenge porn laws in oral arguments. And as it turns out, they’re not the only ones. In Texas, Jordan Bartlett Jones brought a similar First Amendment argument before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, claiming that their state law is unconstitutional because someone could be prosecuted without any knowledge that the person in the image didn’t consent to its publication.

Both Vermont and Washington D.C. overturned similar arguments the year before, but this shows an interesting trend towards arguing against revenge porn laws. As Mary Anne Franks, President, legislative and tech policy director of the anti-revenge-porn group, Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, points out in an interview with American Bar Association Journal, this might not be a bad thing. “Sometimes these challenges are legitimate, in the sense that it may be good for the legislature to take a pretty hard look at whether or not they’ve crafted the best law possible.”

Protect yourself against revenge porn charges in Michigan!

Revenge porn is illegal in Michigan. So if you made the silly mistake of responding to a broken heart by trying to cause your former partner grief, then you’re certainly not the first person in human history to react badly. And you won’t be the last. But there’s a huge difference between bad-mouthing your ex to your friends, and posting naked pictures of them on the internet to get revenge!

So if it sounds like your situation or you’ve been accused of any other type of sex crime in Michigan, contact The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245. Our experienced sex crime defense attorneys have spent decades defending the people of Michigan against felony accusations and allegations of criminal sexual behavior. We’ve achieved great results for many of our clients over the decades, and we can help you too. 

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