With the increased use of internet-based mobile devices, the instances of cybercrimes have increased over the years. Revenge porn is a form of cyber harassment that occurs when you post sexually explicit videos or photos of another person intending to cause them emotional distress. Since most instances of revenge porn involve people who have been in a relationship, the offense is classified as domestic violence. 

Revenge porn is a severe offense prosecuted under California Penal Code 647j4. Successful prosecution and conviction for revenge porn attract severe legal consequences, including jail time and fines. Additionally, having a conviction for this crime in your record could ruin your reputation and affect your personal and professional life. 

If you or your loved one faces charges for this crime, you will require the guidance of a top-notch criminal defense attorney. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we offer the legal advice and representation you need to fight the charges and evade the harsh penalties.

Overview of Revenge Porn in California

The instances of cybercrimes and internet bullying have increased with the increase in internet-based devices for communication and everyday life. Revenge porn is one of the many sex crimes committed on the internet, and it involves the distribution of sexual videos or pictures of another person without their consent.

In the last decade, the release of celebrity sex tapes has become a common phenomenon in California. However, many residents are unaware of the criminal nature of the non-consensual distribution of sexual material. The enhanced video and camera resolution of phones have made it easy for people to take and share sexually explicit images on the internet.

Revenge porn is always a common phenomenon where estranged lovers post the sex videos of their ex-partner for revenge or to hurt their feelings. In addition, hacking another person’s electronic device and posting the sexual photos stored in the device could attract charges for revenge porn. Sharing sexual images of another person can be extremely humiliating and could affect the victim’s reputation. Under California Penal Code 647j4, revenge porn is a serious offense that attracts severe legal consequences.

Besides the emotional trauma caused by revenge porn, the victim may need to spend a lot of money to take down the images from the internet. In that case, the victim could still file a civil lawsuit for the pain and suffering you caused them from committing this crime. If you face charges for revenge porn in California, guidance from a competent attorney is crucial.

Before you face a conviction for revenge porn, the prosecutor must establish the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. You shared or posted material that exposes another person’s intimate body part or a video of another person engaging in a sexual act. An intimate body part, in this case, could be the genitals, breasts, or anus. For this statute, sexual acts could include sodomy, oral sex, intercourse, or other forms of sexual penetration. You would not face charges for revenge porn unless the images or videos uncovered the body parts. The distribution element may involve arranging the release of the images or publishing them on a public website.
  2. There was an understanding between you and the victim that the videos or images would remain private. For most instances, perpetrators of revenge porn are estranged lovers who attempt to hurt their ex-partners. In this case, the defendant may have had possession of the material, but the victim expected them to be safe. When establishing your guilt for this crime, the prosecution must prove the relationship of trust and expectation that the material would remain private.
  3. When you acted, you knew that distributing the images would cause the victim emotional distress. Individuals who commit the crime of revenge porn aim at harming the reputation or hurting the alleged victim. However, sometimes the images or videos could accidentally leak even when the defendant does not intend to put them. Therefore, you can only be guilty of revenge porn if your intention to cause emotional distress to the alleged victim is clear.
  4. The victim suffered emotional distress. The distribution of sexually explicit images can severely damage a person’s reputation. There is no filter on who can access the material once it enters the internet. Therefore, your family and friends may access the images or videos, causing humiliation, fury, and emotional distress. If the victim did not suffer emotional pain, you could not be found guilty of the crime.

Under California law, anyone who commits the above acts is guilty of revenge porn. There is no legal requirement for your actions to be revenge-based. As long as the victim did not consent to the distribution, you could face a conviction for the offense.

There are circumstances under which you will not face a conviction for revenge porn despite your behavior and actions meeting the definition of revenge porn. The exceptions for a conviction include situations where you:

  • Post explicit or sexual images of another person while attempting to report a rape case or instances of sexual abuse.
  • Put to light explicit images during a legal proceeding or when called upon by the court to present such evidence.

Penalties for Violating Revenge Porn Laws

Under California PC 647(j) (4), revenge porn is a misdemeanor. A conviction for this offense will result in the following legal penalties:

  • Jail time. If the court finds you guilty of revenge porn, you risk facing a six months jail sentence. However, if you are a repeat offender facing a conviction for a second subsequent time, your jail sentence could be increased to one year. Another instance that could enhance your penalty is when the victim of your actions is a minor.
  • A conviction for revenge porn is punishable by a fine of $1,000 and $2,000 when the victim is a child.
  • Misdemeanor probation. In California, a defendant facing charges for revenge porn could be sentenced to probation instead of jail time. Misdemeanor probation allows you to serve part of your entire sentence out of jail. With the help of a competent attorney, you can convince the prosecutor to offer you probation. Although probation may help you avoid time behind bars, it is not always the best option for everyone. While on probation, the court imposes some conditions that you must adhere to, failure to which the judge can reinstate your jail sentence.

Since revenge porn is a misdemeanor and not a crime of moral turpitude, you will not suffer immigration consequences after a conviction for the offense. Also, you can retain your rights to own or purchase firearms.

In addition to the above legal consequences, a conviction for revenge porn will remain on your criminal record until you expunge or seal the record. In California, criminal records are public and accessible to all individuals who perform a background check on you. Having a conviction for this crime in your record may cause a potential employer to discriminate against you. Finding a place to live may also be difficult since the landlords may be hesitant to offer individuals who have been convicted of sex-related crimes a residence.

A victim of revenge porn could file a civil lawsuit against you. If the case is successful, the court may require you to compensate the victim for their emotional distress and other losses they incur from your actions. The compensation for a civil suit may be after the court fines or jail sentence and could take a toll on your financial life. Although the criminal case is separate from the criminal case, a conviction for the crime may increase the chances of proving your liability in the civil suit. Therefore, it would be wise to navigate the criminal case with competent legal guidance.

Legal Defense against Revenge Porn

Due to the serious nature of the crime, the State will aggressively prosecute it. Therefore, if you are battling charges for the crime, you will need a skilled criminal lawyer by your side. Since common legal defenses you can explore for your case include:

  • Claim that the distribution of the sexual material was unintentional. The prosecution must prove that you intentionally distributed sexually explicit videos or images of another person. Sometimes, photos can accidentally end up on the internet, making it difficult to erase them. Your attorney can help you prove that you did not intend to distribute the materials.
  • The alleged victim consented to your actions. One of the crucial elements that a prosecutor must prove when establishing your guilt for revenge porn is the lack of consent from the individual depicted in the images or videos. You can argue that you had a mutual understanding with the victim to distribute the materials.
  • Unidentifiable victims. To be convicted for revenge porn, the person whose nudity is exposed on the videos must be identifiable. If the victim’s identity is not known, you can use this strategy to defend your case. However, it is crucial to understand that a person’s face is not the only means of identifying them.
  • The materials did not cause emotional distress. In addition to your intentional distribution of the material, the prosecution must prove that your actions resulted in emotional distress. Depending on the nature of your relationship with the victim, you can argue that your actions were harmless. Since emotional distress is challenging to prove for the prosecutor, you can center your defense on this strategy.

Although the consequences that accompany a revenge porn conviction could be life-changing, a thorough and aggressive defense strategy could decrease the negative impact of your charges.

Sealing Revenge Porn Arrest Records

The consequences of an arrest and conviction for revenge porn go beyond jail time and fines. Fortunately, California law makes it possible for you to live a normal life without dealing with the consequences of your past mistakes. Unlike expungement, where the arrest and conviction remain in your record, sealed arrest records are completely erased from the database and will not be accessible to the public.

It is essential to understand the difference between detention and arrest. When asked about your criminal record, you are expected to disclose details of the arrest, but you don’t need to divulge detention. If you are arrested for allegedly committing the crime of revenge porn, you may apply to have your arrest deemed as detention. When you obtain the detention certificate. Law enforcement agencies are obligated to erase it.

You are eligible for a detention certificate under the following circumstances:

  • The officer arrests you without charging you with a crime
  • An officer arrests you without presenting you with an arrest warrant resulting in a release due to lack of evidence for the case

Under California Penal Code 851.8, you are eligible to seal your record if the prosecutor did not file charges against you. Also, you can file a petition to seal your record if you were charged but never convicted for the crime. If you face a conviction and serve a jail or probation sentence for revenge porn, you will not be eligible to seal the record.

The process of sealing an arrest record takes up to ninety days. The first step in sealing your record is filing a petition with the court. Filing a petition requires you to present identification documents, including your official names, date of birth, and the date you were arrested. An attempt to hide some information about your arrest and other details of your criminal history could result in a denial of your petition. 

At the hearing, the prosecutor has the opportunity to oppose your petition. The stakes for a record sealing petition are high, and the judge could reject the petition resulting in a prohibition for a subsequent petition. If the judge accepts your petition, all the agencies with information regarding your arrest and charges will be required to erase them.

Most potential employers and landlords do a background check on you before offering you a job or renting you an apartment. Since arrest and conviction records are public, the employer can use them to discriminate against you for a job position. However, it becomes inaccessible when you successfully seal your record, and you are not obligated to disclose it.

The process of sealing an arrest record can be challenging due to the numerous documents you must present to prove your case. Therefore, seeking legal guidance throughout the sealing position is one of the wisest decisions you can make.

Offenses Related to Revenge Porn in California

The crime of revenge porn is likely to cause severe emotional distress to the victims. Although the offense is a misdemeanor, the consequences of a conviction for this offense go beyond jail time. Under California law, some crimes are related and could be charged together with revenge porn, including:

Criminal Invasion of Privacy

Most people view the invasion of privacy as a civil matter. If you act in a way that harms another person’s privacy, they could file a civil lawsuit seeking compensation for the harm you caused them. However, California has laws on the criminal invasion of privacy. Under California Penal Code 647j, it is an offense to violate another person’s privacy in the following ways:

Using a device to invade another person’s privacy 

Before you face a conviction for criminal invasion of privacy under CPC 647j1, the prosecution must prove that:

  • You looked through an opening
  • When doing so, you looked into a room to watch another person
  • The alleged victim had reasonable expectations of privacy while in the room
  • You used a device to aid your observation
  • You acted intending to invade the victim’s privacy

Secretly photographing or recording another person’s body under or through their clothes

A prosecutor has to prove that:

  • You secretly videotaped or recorded another person
  • You recorded them under or through their clothes
  • You acted with an intent to satisfy your sexual desires
  • The victim was at a place where they expected privacy

Recording someone in a private room so you can view their body under their clothes

If you face charges for violating Penal Code 647j3, the prosecutor must prove these factors before you face a conviction:

  • You used a recording device in a private room
  • You did so to record the undergarments or body of another person
  • You acted without the other person consent
  • You intended to invade the victim’s privacy

You will only be found guilty in all the above situations if you recorded or looked at someone in an area where they had reasonable expectations for privacy.

Criminal invasion of privacy is charged as a misdemeanor under California law. A conviction for the offense is punishable by a six months jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. If you are charged for a second or subsequent offense or the victim of your crime was a minor, you will serve a jail sentence of one year and fines not exceeding $2,000.

Since the criminal invasion of privacy is neither a felony nor a crime of moral turpitude, you will not face any adverse immigration consequences. Sometimes, the prosecutor can charge you with criminal invasion of privacy in addition to revenge porn. Therefore seeking legal guidance is crucial when you face these charges.

Peeking while Loitering

California Penal Code 647 i criminalizes the act of peeking in the door or window of an inhabited building while loitering on private property. You commit a crime of peeking while loitering if you delay, prowl or linger on another person’s property without a purpose and peek in the window or door of the structures in that property.

For this statue, a structure is considered to be inhabited if someone else uses it for dwelling. It is crucial to understand that you can face charges for peeping while loitering even when there was no one in the building at the time you acted.

Peeping while loitering is a misdemeanor that attracts a six months jail sentence after a conviction. Also, the court may require you to [ay fines not exceeding $1,000. California law is stringent in repeat offenders and individuals who commit crimes against minors. Therefore, if the victim of your actions is a child under eighteen years, your sentence may be enhanced.

Sometimes, the court may allow you to serve probation instead of jail time. If you are sentenced to probation, you will serve a little or no time behind bars. Misdemeanor probation lasts between one and three years. While on probation, you must comply with all the probation conditions imposed by the judge during sentencing. Some conditions of probation may include:

  • Payment of fines and victim restitution
  • Regular check-ins with the court to report your progress
  • Avoid involvement in criminal activity
  • Avoid contact with victims of your crimes

Violation of any of the above conditions would prompt the judge to revoke your probation and reinstate the jail sentence. Not all defendants receive probation instead of jail. Therefore, the guidance of a competent attorney is essential in convincing the prosecutor to offer you a probation sentence.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

You can face an arrest and charges for revenge porn if you post sexually explicit videos or images of another person on the internet without their consent. Unlike popular belief, the distribution of sexual images and videos is not limited to estranged lovers. Sometimes, a personal device where the photos are stored could be hacked, and the images end up on the internet. Due to the emotional distress that the leaked images and videos are likely to cause the victim, revenge porn is punished severely after a conviction.

Fortunately, not all revenge porn charges result in a conviction. Although California law seeks to protect the rights of all victims of revenge porn, there is a high possibility of wrongful accusations. Therefore, a knowledgeable attorney can help you fight the charges and avoid a conviction or reduce your charges. If you face charges for revenge porn in Riverside, CA, we invite you to contact us at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm. Our group of competent lawyers works hard to build a strong defense for your case for a possible reduction of your charges or dismissal of the case. Call us today at 951-946-6366 to discuss more details of your case.