Revenge Porn & Unlawful Dissemination or Publication of an Intimate Image: New York Penal Law 245.15

Although there may be victims and their advocates who will argue it does not go far enough, with the passage of New York Penal Law 245.15, Unlawful Dissemination or Publication of an Intimate Image (awaiting the Governor’s signature) police departments and District Attorneys throughout the State of New York will have the ability to prosecute certain types of actions that fall under the umbrella of Revenge Porn crimes. Similar to NYC’s Unlawful Disclosure of an Intimate Image, Administrative Code 10-177*3, this new statute would allow victims to pursue their alleged abusers criminally in a NY Criminal Court as well as in a Civil Court by establishing the means for a private right of action – a lawsuit – pursuant to Civil Rights Law 52-b. Equally important, a violation of Penal Law 245.15 would also constitute a Family Offense thereby potentially allowing a petitioner to secure a Family Court Order of Protection without the arrest of their alleged tormentor.

Whether you are a victim or an accused, before you find yourself on either end of a Criminal, Family or Civil Court proceeding, educate yourself on the law, consult with your counsel or lawyer, and take the steps to protect yourself going forward.

Understanding the Statute: What is Illegal and Impermissible

You are guilty of Penal Law 245.15, pursuant to subsection (1)(a), if you intend to cause any degree of harm to your target’s emotional, financial or physical welfare. In doing so, you must also intentionally disseminate or publish, aka, share, an image of that person whether in video form or as a picture. Moreover, that image must also make your alleged target identifiable based on what is provided. The last prong or element is that when you distributed the picture, movie, etc., you did so without the other party’s consent.

It is important to keep in mind that according to subsection (1)(b), when the recording or picture was taken, the depicted person must have had a reasonable expectation that the image would not be made public and instead be kept private. Further, the “illegal sharer” of the recording must have known or reasonably should have known that this was the expectation.

Punishment and Penalty: From Jail to Fines

As a class “A” misdemeanor, whether you are in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Poughkeepsie, New City, White Plains, Buffalo, Albany, Syracuse or Binghamton, the potential punishment is the same. That is, upon conviction a defendant can be incarcerated by up to one year in jail, sentenced to probation and/or community service, fined up to $1,000.00 and face a host of other conditions imposed by a judge. Keep in mind that criminal convictions are never expunged in New York even if they may be eligible for sealing ten years after the sentence is completed.

Civil Actions and Family Court

It should be lost on no one that by creating a “private right of action,” which means that a person can pursue a lawsuit against his or her perpetrator, a victim of Revenge Porn can potentially find themselves awarded compensatory and punitive damages. Equally important, costs and attorneys fees associated with your action may also be included. Keep in mind that this right is not preserved in perpetuity, but the law permits a victim to commence a legal action within three years after the embarrassing image is published or one year from when it was, or reasonably should have been, discovered.

Whether or not you decide to file a law suit, you may still be able to protect yourself in Family Court with a Restraining Order. This Stay Away Order can remain in effect for up to five years even without an arrest. Further, the recipient of the Order of Protection may be subject to future criminal charges, such as Criminal Contempt, if he or she fails to abide by its terms.

To learn more about the statutes above, as well as related offenses, and your rights as a complainant or defendant, follow the links provided throughout this blog entry.

Crotty Saland PC, a New York criminal law firm established by former Manhattan prosecutors, represents victims of Revenge Porn, Stalking, Extortion, Blackmail and Aggravated Harassment, as well as those accused of the same, throughout New York City, the Hudson Valley and elsewhere in the state.