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Court Rules Texas Revenge Porn Law is Not Unconstitutional

Court Rules Texas Revenge Porn Law is Not Unconstitutional

A court has upheld Texas’ recently enacted “revenge porn” law that can land offenders in jail for up to a year.

The state’s so-called “revenge porn” law makes it a misdemeanor to post somebody’s intimate photographs online without their consent.

This month, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the law does not violate the First Amendment. The ruling by the state’s highest criminal court overrules a 2018 decision by a lower court that the law was unconstitutional, the Texas Tribune reported.

The law enacted in 2015 made posting someone’s intimate photographs to the internet without their permission a criminal offense, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. The law was challenged three years ago. In 2018, the 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler ruled that the “revenge porn” law violated the first amendment. It asked a lower court to dismiss charges against a man who was awaiting trial for allegedly posting a woman’s private photos to the internet without her consent.

The Tribune noted the ruling only blocked the law in more than a dozen Northeast Texas counties under the 12th Court of Appeals.

The court in 2018 also took issue with a provision of the law that allowed it to target third parties who may have “unwittingly” shared intimate photos online. 

Many other states enacted revenge porn laws in recent years, though they vary in scope and the seriousness of the punishment.

Chief Justice James Worthen described the law in the 2018 ruling as an “invalid content-based restriction and over-broad in the sense that it violates rights of too many third parties by restricting more speech than the Constitution permits,” according to the Tribune.

The Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the state must prove that the defendant purposefully posted images that were meant to be kept private, knew they did not have permission to post the intimate photos, and posted photos that clearly identified the person depicted.

Court of Criminal Appeals judges Kevin Yeary and Sharon Keller stated that while the “revenge porn” law is a content-based restriction, it is not too broad because it is tailored to a specific government interest, that of protecting sexual privacy.

The Court of Criminal Appeals stated the law would not apply to someone who unknowingly shared certain images.

Over 40 states and the District of Columbia have revenge porn laws. These laws are still relatively new and continuing to develop. 

In most states, the alleged distributor must send out photographs or videos that are considered to be sexual in nature.

Texas takes a tough line on “revenge porn.” People who violate this law may spend months behind bars and a large fine. At Broden & Mickelsen, our experienced criminal defense lawyers represent defendants charged with a wide range of state crimes including possession of child pornography and other online offenses. Please call us at (214) 720-9552.