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Break-ups have been hard since the beginning of human history. Because of this, exes have come up with plenty of unique and petty ways of hurting each other. Most of our “revenge” actions wouldn’t merit a call to law enforcement: being slow to return someone’s book, ignoring  calls, shutting the door extra-loud… 

However, the proliferation of the internet and smartphones has given far more of us the power to not only take intimate images and videos, but share them as well. When this is done without the permission of the person or people in the images or videos, this is illegal. The common term is “revenge porn.”

This has become such a common online occurrence that states have started to make laws to address it. Read on to learn how North Carolina has dealt with this strange, modern problem.

North Carolina’s Revenge Porn Statutes

In 2015, North Carolina passed House Bill 792. Although it definitely intends to empower prosecution of revenge porn, the state gave the statute a gentler name, “Disclosure of Private Images.” 

In 2017, North Carolina passed a new law, because the original contained a prominent loophole — the 2015 statute wouldn’t allow prosecution if the images were taken without the featured person knowing. When the North Carolina Coalition of Sexual Assault complained, and lawmakers agreed.

Taking someone’s picture without permission and posting it without permission felt obviously in violation of privacy rights. Thus, the 2017 statute passed. Legislators hoped that it would also cover an increase in sexting cases between teenagers.

Now, what exactly constitutes a “private image”? What do these statutes really cover?

Intimate Images

In order for an image to be considered “intimate,” it must contain any of the following body parts:

  • Male or female genitalia
  • The female or male pubic area
  • The anus of either gender
  • The nipple, if a female is over age 12

The law especially has clout to prosecute if the person pictured is identifiable. This could mean that their face or body are recognizable in the photo or video. But it also applies if the subject can be identified via context. For instance, if the person is clearly in their own bedroom, friends and family would likely assume it’s them, even without a face in the image.

Malintention

We can probably all admit that it’s embarrassing for an erotic photo to reach unwanted eyes. The damage is especially uncontrolled on the internet. Once a photo or video has been released to the public online, it can circulate virtually forever. 

For the sake of charges, prosecutors need to prove certain aspects about the case. Specifically, they need to show that the person who shared the image did so intending to exact the following harm on their victim:

  • Coerce
  • Harass
  • Intimidate
  • Demean
  • Humiliate
  • Cause financial loss

The statute also covers the fact that sharing revenge porn might evoke these responses from internet users. Prosecutors might demonstrate that the person who shared the image knew others would react in coercion, harassment, intimidation, and so on.

Personal Relationship

Revenge porn takes place between people who are or were in a personal relationship. Because this term can mean many different things to different people, the law defines this as well. 

The following statuses make a relationship “personal” in the eyes of the law:

  • Current or former spouses
  • Persons of the opposite sex who live or have lived together
  • Persons related as parents and children, including designated guardians who aren’t biological parents
  • Those who have a child in common
  • Current or former household members
  • Persons of the opposite sex who are in a dating relationship or have been in a dating relationship

Reasonable Expectation of Privacy in NC

If you’re charged with revenge porn, can you argue that your ex never specifically told you to keep the photo or video to yourself? Most likely, no.

North Carolina Revenge Porn Defense Attorneys

According to the statute, charges can be pursued if the image was shared in a context where assuming privacy is reasonable. If a personal connection can be proven, establishing this expectation of privacy follows fairly easily.

Penalties for Sharing Private Images

For defendants tried as adults, a conviction garners a Class H felony. For minors, their first time offense can be tried as a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, multiple offenses for a minor will bump the charge to the same as an adult, Class H felony.

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