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AZHARI LLC BLOG

Apr. 5 2019

Your Guide to Revenge Porn Laws in Illinois

Posted By: Sami Azhari

Your Guide to Revenge Porn Laws in Illinois

Revenge porn, or the distribution of sexually explicit images or videos without the subject’s consent, has been recognized as a criminal offense in Illinois since 2014.

Many times, an explicit photo or image is sent consensually in the course of a romantic relationship, and then exploited by the recipient after the relationship is over. Generally, revenge porn is distributed to harass, blackmail, seek revenge, or otherwise upset the subject. Unfortunately, revenge porn is a growing problem – both in Illinois and nationwide.

However, even the threat of criminal charges has not slowed down revenge porn. Lawmakers have therefore passed new revenge porn legislation to further discourage this practice and protect victims. Under the new laws, revenge porn victims are able to seek financial compensation from the perpetrators.

On its face, this probably seems like a good idea. After all, revenge porn is devastating to its victims, and should be taken very seriously. However, it’s often hard to correctly identify the person responsible for distributing revenge porn, which can lead to false accusations that are also devastating.

For example, say that Joe and his girlfriend make an explicit video while they’re together. They then go through a nasty breakup, and a few weeks later, the video shows up on a pornography website.

Joe would be the obvious suspect for having shared the video, but what if his girlfriend also saved the videos on her cloud storage, and the cloud was hacked? In this case, Joe could face damage to his reputation and felony-level charges – even though he’s completely innocent.

Regardless of whether you’ve been falsely accused or made a bad decision in an emotional moment, the consequences of being convicted for distributing revenge porn are devastating. It is therefore very important to understand exactly how revenge porn laws work in Illinois.

How Illinois Defines Revenge Porn

In Illinois, a person commits revenge porn by distributing private sexual images of a subject 18 years or older without the subject’s consent. The images can be distributed either electronically or in print. The subject must be identifiable from the image, or the identifying information must be displayed or posted with the image.

If the subject is a minor under 18, the defendant could face the more serious charge of child pornography – even if the defendant received the image from the subject in the course of a romantic relationship.

What Is a “Private Sexual Image” According to Illinois Law?

Legally, a private sexual image is defined as a photo, film, video, digital recording, or other depiction of the subject engaged in an intimate act, or with intimate parts either exposed or covered only by transparent clothing.

Skokie Sex Crimes Lawyer

The image is private only if the perpetrator obtained the image under circumstances in which a reasonable person would know or understand that the images were intended to be private. For example, by text message or Snapchat. Contrastingly, an image taken from the subject’s social media feed would not be considered private.

A person is also only guilty of revenge porn if he knew or should have known that the subject did not consent to distribution. These conditions also presume an expectation of privacy in a sexual relationship.

Illinois Revenge Porn Sentencing and Penalties

Revenge porn is a Class 4 felony in Illinois, which carries a prison sentence of 1-3 years or probation for up to 30 months, in addition to a potential $25,000 fine. If the defendant was convicted of a class 4 or more serious felony within 10 years of a previous revenge porn conviction, the new conviction would be an extended Class 4 felony, which is punishable by 3-6 years of imprisonment.

Additionally, revenge porn victims are able to seek damages from their abusers by filing civil suits. The damages are often extensive, covering losses such as emotional distress and employment consequences. This means that if you are accused of revenge porn, you could face a lawsuit for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

Recent Changes to Illinois Revenge Porn Laws

As mentioned above, new legislation recently went into effect that enables revenge porn victims to seek financial compensation for damages under the Crime Victims Compensation Act. This is separate and in addition to what a victim might seek out in a civil suit.

The act provides victims up to $27,000 in financial compensation to recover from the crime. The money is paid as a reimbursement, and is meant to offset the cost of psychiatric treatment and counseling that may be required to recover from the crime’s aftermath.

The overarching goal of this legislation is to “send the message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated in our community.”

Recent Changes to Illinois Revenge Porn Laws

Translation?

Revenge porn is currently a major priority in the Illinois justice system. This means that prosecutors will be more aggressive in pursuing revenge porn cases, so if you are charged, you need to understand the laws surrounding revenge porn and fight back with the strongest possible strategy.

 

About the Author:

Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.