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'Revenge porn' bill advances, but may change

Posted July 28, 2015

— The state Senate on Tuesday tentatively approved making "revenge porn" a crime, but leaders plan to make changes to the bill Wednesday to lessen the punishment for juveniles.

House Bill 792 would create a new crime of "revenge postings," covering the willful and malicious disclosure of private images created within the context of a personal relationship without the other party's consent.

In its current form, the legislation makes it a Class H felony to knowingly disclose "an image of another person who is identifiable from the image itself or information offered in connection with the image, and whose intimate parts are exposed or who is engaged in sexual conduct," if the disclosure is done "with the intent to coerce, harass, intimidate, demean, humiliate, or cause financial loss to the depicted person."

However, some senators expressed concern that making a first offense a felony, especially for perpetrators under 18, may be overly punitive.

Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, proposed amending the bill to make the crime a felony only for perpetrators over 18 and to downgrade the first offense to a serious misdemeanor for all ages.

"Most of the kids who are doing this stuff, they’re passing it around," Robinson said, explaining that her amendment "sort of lessens the impact on the kids who do stupid stuff and gives them some recourse in terms of not impacting their whole lives, but gets them into counseling and gives them a chance to get their lives together."

The bill's Senate sponsor, Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, agreed.

"I feel like it’s a good amendment. All of us have done stupid things. Whether we be 16 or in our 50s, we all do stupid things once," Jackson said. "I think that, if we’re not careful, folks, I do believe we’ve got a tendency to slap a felony on a lot of things in this state that do not need to be felonies and ruin our young people’s lives."

Robinson agreed to withdraw the amendment and run it Wednesday instead to allow others to make sure it's consistent with other sections of the law.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, amended the bill to add a study of cases in which people superimpose one person's face on another person's body "depicting sexual body parts, private body parts."

"In the world of politics, they can do this to you as well as anybody else," Tillman cautioned his colleagues. "If they want to superimpose your face on another body, that’s an issue that's not clear in the law right now. The staff thinks that we should study that issue and clarify who the responsible party is and what penalties might ought to be involved."

The bill also gives the "depicted person" the right to sue for up to $10,000 in damages, plus punitive damages and attorneys' fees. It has a four-year statute of limitations and would take effect Dec. 1.

The measure passed on an unanimous vote. If it passes its final Senate vote Wednesday, it heads back to the House for concurrence in the Senate's changes.

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  • Belle Boyd Jul 28, 2015
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    I think this is a good bill to have.