Michigan’s New ‘Revenge Porn’ Law

Posting nude pictures of your ex isn’t just getting even – it’s also illegal!

 

If you have been following our previous posts, you will know that there was a bill in the works for quite a while that addressed the issue of “revenge porn.” Well after months of consideration, having passed both the Michigan House and the Senate, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed SB 924 and 925 into law (Governor Snyder was out of town at the time). As of April of 2016, “revenge porn” is illegal in Michigan. But what does that mean exactly? How could it impact you?

 

By definition, revenge porn refers to a person making sexually explicit images and videos of someone else public, without their consent, as an act of revenge. Most commonly, this takes place when a dating couple either photograph or record images of a sexual nature together or share them with each other while they are apart. After the relationship ends, one person shares these images or videos with the public, usually through social media, in order to shame, embarrass, harass or humiliate the other person.

 

Senate Bills 924 & 925, which were proposed in the Spring of 2014, were introduced with the intention of protecting the privacy and reputation of individuals by making it illegal to post images or video recordings of a sexual nature online, without someone’s consent. Now, under state law, revenge porn is a misdemeanor and a person convicted of this crime could be required to pay a fine of up to $1,000 and serve a jail sentence of up to 93 days. Subsequent conviction would result in jail time of up to one year.

 

While it may seem obvious to some that posting that naked selfie your ex girlfriend sent you on Facebook would be a bad idea just because she made you mad, this is only one aspect of the revenge porn law. Something doesn’t have to be put on Facebook for a person to get into trouble for sharing sexually compromising images of another person without their permission.

 

Because the law specifies that it is unlawful to “intentionally disseminate sexually explicit visual material of another person,” it is important to remember that disseminate does not have to mean in a public setting for it to be considered unlawful. Under state law, ‘disseminate’ means ‘post, distribute, or publish on a computer device, computer network, website, or other electronic device or medium of communication.’

 

In other words, emailing a naked picture of your mean ex girlfriend or boyfriend to a handful of your friends without getting their permission first, could count as disseminating sexually explicit images without consent. If the prosecutor believes that you disseminated  in order to humiliate that other person or to coerce them into doing something that they would otherwise not do, or to intimidate that person in any way.

 

It is important to remember, however, that while the issue of ‘revenge porn’ tends to come up far more in past relationships where one person is angry at the other (usually for breaking up with them or cheating on them), and they “get even” by posting revenge porn online, this isn’t always the case. The law does not specify that the person whose image is posted is an ex. It could just as easily be a current girlfriend or boyfriend or even a marital partner.

 

If a man posts naked pictures of his wife online in order to control her behavior, this counts as revenge porn. If a woman shares a sexually explicit video of her boyfriend after a fight knowing that her friends will make fun of him as a result and the humiliation will keep him from repeating whatever it was that caused the argument in the first place, this counts as revenge porn.

 

As attorneys who deal with sex crime charges, divorces, custody battles, computer crimes and pornography charges on a daily basis, we encourage you to think seriously about every picture you share online of another person. If the image is in any way intimate or sexual in nature and you don’t have the permission of the person in the picture, we advise that you keep it to yourself. Better yet, delete it all together and remove the temptation to post it online. Regardless of how mad you are at the time or how poorly the person in question behaved towards you, it isn’t worth months in a Michigan jail and hundreds of your hard earned dollars.

 

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