Friday, January 10, 2020

ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS “REVENGE PORN” STATUTE

The Illinois “Revenge Porn” statute does not require a vengeful intent, and the Illinois Supreme Court has said that is OK. In a recent decision, the court concluded the statute did not violate the First Amendment by unduly restricting free speech.

Under the law, it is a Class 4 felony to intentionally disseminate an identifiable image of another person over age 18 involved in a sex act or whose intimate parts are exposed where the image was obtained under circumstances in which a reasonable person would understand the image was to remain private and should know that the person in the image did not consent to the dissemination. See 720 ILCS 5/11-23.5.

An “image” includes photographs, films, videotape, digital recordings or other depictions of an object, including a human body. “Intimate parts” is defined as “the fully unclothed, partially unclothed or transparently clothed genitals, pubic area, anus, or if the person is female, a partially or fully exposed nipple including exposure through transparent clothing.” Under the law, sharing a nude drawing could potentially become a Class 4 felony.

The law contains certain exceptions such as if the image was disseminated: 1) for purposes of a criminal investigation, 2) for reporting unlawful conduct, 3) where the images involve voluntary exposure for commercial purposes or 4) for some other lawful purpose.

In People v. Austin, the defendant discovered the victim’s texts and nude photos on her fiancé’s phone. The defendant broke off her engagement. Her ex-fiancé then told friends and family that she was crazy. In response, the defendant wrote a letter explaining her side of the story and including four pictures of the naked victim. Because the Illinois law does not contain a mental intent element, it does not require a vengeful motive. In this case, the defendant was convicted for essentially defending herself against her fiancé’s statements. Nevertheless, the Court reasoned that the statute did not restrict speech of public concern, and thus did not violate the First Amendment nor due process.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you have reason to believe that the image was intended to remain private or that the victim had not consented to its dissemination? Even if the police acted lawfully and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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