What is revenge porn and how is it treated under Illinois law?

Illinois residents should be familiar with the revenge porn law that the state passed in 2015 as well as the felony penalties that a conviction can bring.

Last year, Illinois joined a minority of other states in criminalizing the sharing of "revenge porn." Under the state's new law, which has been described as the strictest of its kind in the U.S., convicted offenders can now face serious legal consequences. This makes it essential for people in Chicago to understand the definition of revenge porn and the sanctions that can follow felony criminal charges of sharing this material.

Non-consensually shared images

Under the new law, intimate images that are shared without the consent of the subject are classified as revenge porn. According to The International Business Times, images that aren't explicit but depict sexual activity can still be considered revenge porn. An image may qualify as revenge porn even if the subject originally consented to creating the image or personally took the photograph.

Broad legal criteria

This law differs significantly from those in other states in the way that it defines revenge porn and dictates who can be prosecuted for alleged violations. The Huffington Post reports that key differences in this law include the following provisions:

  • Prosecutors do not have to show that an accused person posted or shared the content with intent to cause the subject harm.
  • People who are accused of sharing revenge porn through media other than the Internet can still be charged under the law.
  • People who never had an intimate relationship with the subject, such as hackers, can also be charged with violating the law.

In cases that involve hackers or other third parties, state law requires the use of a reasonable person standard, according to The International Business Times. This standard is employed to assess whether a person who encountered an intimate image should have reasonably known that it was private or publicized without consent. If so, the third party may be charged for sharing the image.

Serious felony sanctions

The Huffington Post explains that the creators of this legislation viewed revenge porn as comparable to highly serious felony sex crimes, such as sexual assault. The potential penalties for this offense, which are currently some of the most stringent in the country, reflect this conviction.

According to The Chicago Tribune, posting revenge porn is a Class 4 felony. People convicted of this offense may face between one and three years of incarceration, along with $25,000 in fines. Furthermore, convicted offenders can be forced to forfeit any proceeds that they allegedly obtained from posting or otherwise sharing the intimate images.

Answering to serious charges

Unfortunately, given the broad terms of this new law, many people in Illinois may find themselves accused of violations. It is advisable for anyone in this situation to consider consulting with a criminal defense attorney. An attorney may be able to help a person explore means of challenging the charges or otherwise pursuing a less severe outcome.