What is North Carolina's "Revenge Porn" Law?

With access to the internet and social media in our pockets, there comes many great opportunities to interact with one another, as well as many ways to cause harm. A form of abuse that has garnered a great deal of attention is what people refer to as “Revenge Porn”. It is a way of enacting revenge against a person by sharing explicit photos or videos that the victim shared but intended to remain private between both parties.

With such cases on the rise, legislators across the country have passed laws to specifically address this behavior, including North Carolina in 2015. The revenge porn law in North Carolina is called “Disclosure of Private Images”, and under the right circumstances can be a very serious crime. However, like with any crime, the state has the burden of proof to show you did commit the act as accused and satisfy all the required elements of the crime. This means that if you are accused of distributing revenge porn, you will need the help of an experienced sex crime defense lawyer. The lawyers at Tarlton Polk can take a deep look at your case to build up a suitable defense that accounts for all the evidence the government has and doesn’t have against you.

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What are the Elements of Revenge Porn?

Committing revenge porn has to involve a lot more than just the sharing of images. The following are key elements to what makes it a crime:

  • Knowing disclosure of images: The defendant must knowingly transfer, publish, distribute or reproduce any kind of electronic media such as a photograph, film, videotape, live transmission, or computer-generated visual depiction.
  • Intent to Harm: The person disclosing the images must do so with the intent to coerce, harass, intimidate, demean, humiliate or cause financial loss to the depicted person, or to cause others to do any of the above.
  • Depicted person is identifiable: The person must be identifiable from either the disclosed image itself or information offered in connection with the disclosed image.
  • Intimate exposure: The depicted person’s “intimate parts” (genitals, pubic area, anus, nipples of a female) are exposed, or the person is engaged in sexual conduct in the image.
  • Lack of consent: The depicted person did not provide affirmative consent to have the image distributed, or the images were obtained without consent of the depicted.

For a person to be guilty of this offense, all of the above must be satisfied. Essentially, it is not a crime to distribute these images by mistake, for example, or to do so without any intent to cause harm. This crime is specifically targeted towards the use of private images to intentionally cause others harm.

Are there Other Exceptions?

In addition to requiring the above elements, there are a few additional exceptions where even if the above elements are satisfied, the defendant may not be guilty of a crime:

  • Voluntary exposure: the image involves the depicted person voluntarily exposing themselves in a public or commercial setting.
  • Disclosure made in public interest: disclosing the images were made in the public interest, such as reporting unlawful conduct. 
  • Providers of “interactive computer services”: This law does not criminalize the service that can host such images, just the person uploading them.

Penalties and Remedies

If the defendant is convicted of this offense, there are a number of both civil and criminal penalties they will face.

First, for criminal penalties, the defendant may be punished as follows:

  • Defendant is 18 years old or older: Conviction is a class H felony.
  • Defendant is under 18: First time conviction is a class 1 misdemeanor, but any subsequent offense is a class H felony.

Additional civil actions and remedies include being required to recover damages to the other person for any of the following:

  • Actual damages, but not less than liquidated damages, to be computed at the rate of $1,000 per day for each day of the violation, or in the amount of $10,000, whichever is higher.
  • A reasonable attorney’s fee and other litigation costs reasonably incurred.
  • Requirement to destroy all images in connection with the victim.

These civil action lawsuits must be filed by the victim no more than one year after initial discovery of the disclosure.

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