Revenge Porn Laws in Texas: Criminal and Civil Consequences

 In Criminal

Revenge Porn Laws in Texas

In the age of smart phones and social media, it seems to be a growing trend for jaded ex-lovers to strike back at their former lovers by posting images or videos of a sexual nature online. “Revenge porn” is generally considered to be the act of sharing sexually-explicit photos or videos online without the consent of the person depicted and usually with the intent to embarrass, harass or humiliate the person depicted. In 2015, Texas passed legislation that creates criminal and civil liability for revenge porn in Texas.

Criminal Culpability: Unlawful Disclosure or Promotion of Intimate Visual Material

Chapter 21, of the Texas Penal Code, was amended by adding Section 21.16. The section creates a Class A misdemeanor offense under three different scenarios for those who disclose or promote intimate visual material.

Unlawful Disclosure Intimate Visual Material

(b) A person commits an offense if:

  1. Without the effective consent of the depicted person, the person intentionally discloses visual material depicting another person with the person’s intimate parts exposed or engaged in sexual conduct;
  2. The visual material was obtained by the person or created under circumstances in which the depicted person had a reasonable expectation that the visual material would remain private;
  3. The disclosure of the visual material causes harm to the depicted person; and
  4. The disclosure of the visual material reveals the identity of the depicted person in any manner, including through: (A) Any accompanying or subsequent information or material related to the visual material; or (B) Information or material provided by a third party in response to them disclosure of the visual material.

Threat of Unlawful Disclosure of Intimate Visual Material

(c) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally threatens to disclose, without the consent of the depicted person, visual material depicting another person with the person ’s intimate parts exposed or engaged in sexual conduct and the actor makes the threat to obtain a benefit:

             (1) In return for not making the disclosure; or

             (2) In connection with the threatened disclosure.

Promotion of Intimate Visual Material

(d) A person commits an offense if, knowing the character and content of the visual material, the person promotes visual material described by Subsection (b) on an Internet website or other forum for publication that is owned or operated by the person.

The law specifically provides that it is not a defense to prosecution that the person depicted:

            (1) Created or consented to the creation of the visual material; or

            (2) Voluntarily transmitted the visual material to the actor.

Civil Liability for Revenge Porn in Texas 

The civil portion of the law will be codified under Chapter 98B of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code and provides the following causes of action:

(a) A defendant is liable, as provided by this chapter, to a person depicted in intimate visual material for damages arising from the disclosure of the material if:

  1. The defendant discloses the intimate visual material without the effective consent of the depicted person;
  2. The intimate visual material was obtained by the defendant or created under        circumstances in which the depicted person had a reasonable expectation that the material would remain private;
  3. The disclosure of the intimate visual material causes harm to the depicted person; and
  4. The disclosure of the intimate visual material reveals the identity of the depicted person in any manner, including through: (A) Any accompanying or subsequent information or material related to the intimate visual material; or (B) Information or material provided by a third party in response to the disclosure the intimate visual material.

(b) A defendant is liable, as provided by this chapter, to a person depicted in intimate visual material for damages arising from the promotion of the material if, knowing the character and content of the material, the defendant promotes intimate visual material described by Subsection (a) on an Internet website or other forum for publication that is owned or operated by the defendant.

Individuals who are victims of non-consensual disclosure will be entitled to injunctive relief. Once granted by a judge, defendant’s will be enjoined from continuing to distribute the intimate material.  Damages of $1,000.00 for each willful or intentional violation of the court order and  $500.00 for each violation of a court order which is not found to be willful or intentional will be assessed.

A plaintiff who successfully proves distribution of intimate visual material will be awarded actual damages, including damages for mental anguish, court costs, and reasonable attorneys fees.

Any distribution or promotion of intimate materials without consent, or threats of distribution of intimate material will constitute an offense under the new legislation. If you need legal help with an issue you are facing regarding revenge porn, call the attorneys at Varghese Summersett PLLC today at (817) 203-2220.

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Also published on Medium.

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