Revenge Porn – RHODE ISLAND

Revenge Porn Rhode Island

In recent years, state lawmakers across the country have been clamoring to criminalize what is known as “revenge porn,” or nonconsensual pornography.  New Jersey was the first to do so in 2013, with many other states soon following suit.  As of today, 46 states now have laws against this type of misconduct, including Rhode Island, which signed a bill into law criminalizing revenge porn and “sextortion” in 2018. 

Revenge porn is considered sexually explicit media that is publicly shared online without the consent of the pictured individual.  Sextortion occurs when someone uses explicit photos to threaten or blackmail the victim – usually into performing sexual acts or for monetary gain.  As such, the difference between revenge porn and sextortion is the motive that lies behind the conduct.  While sextortion seeks to gain some sexual or financial benefit from the victim, revenge porn is usually distributed with the intent of harming the depicted person or his or her reputation.    

Under Rhode Island General Law §11-64-3, entitled “Unauthorized Dissemination of Indecent Material,” an individual is guilty of unauthorized dissemination of a sexually explicit visual image of another person if they intentionally disseminate, publish or sell:

  • A visual image that depicts another identifiable person, age 18 or older, engaged in sexually explicit conduct, or of the intimate areas of that person;
  • The visual image was made, captured, recorded or obtained under circumstances in which a reasonable person would expect that image to remain private;
  • The visual image was disseminated without the depicted person’s consent; and
  • With knowledge or reckless disregard for the likelihood that the depicted person will suffer harm, or with the intent to harass, intimidate, threaten or coerce the depicted person;

A “visual image” includes photographs, films, videos, or digital images or recordings.  “Sexually explicit conduct” means sexual intercourse, bestiality, masturbation, or sadistic or masochistic abuse.  “Intimate areas” is defined as the naked genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or any portion of the female breast below the top of the areola.  Finally, as referenced in the fourth element of the offense, the harm a depicted person might suffer includes: bodily injury, emotional distress, financial loss, or injury to their reputation. 

A first offenses for “revenge porn” is a misdemeanor, and if convicted, subject to imprisonment of not more than one year, and/or a fine not exceeding $1,000.  Any subsequent offense is considered a felony, and subject to a maximum term of five years imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding $5,000. 

“Sextortion” is also criminalized under R.I.G.L. §11-64-3.  A person may be found guilty if they:

  • Intentionally threaten to disclose any visual image described above, and the threat is made in order to obtain a benefit in return for not disclosing the image, or in connection with the threatened disclosure; or
  • Demand payment of money, property, services, or anything else of value from a person in exchange for removing any visual image described above from public view.

If convicted, “sextortion,” is considered a felony and may result in up to five years prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. 

Rhode Island lawmakers passed this bill into law believing that it will serve as a way to protect its citizens against “attempts to hurt or intimidate…especially from vindictive lovers, by disseminating intimate or explicit photos.”  However, civil liberties groups argue that laws such as this can lead to undue censorship in violation of the First Amendment.  Currently, only four states, including Massachusetts, do not have laws guarding against revenge porn as of yet.  However, based on the language of the Rhode Island statute, there are many possible defenses to consider if charged with revenge porn. If you or someone you know has been charged with “revenge porn” or “sextortion,” contact the Law Office of John L. Calcagni III, Inc. today at (401) 351-5100 for a free consultation.