The crime of sexual cyberharassment, also known colloquially as revenge porn, is the posting or distribution of intimate photographs, images, or videos of another person on the Internet without their consent and in order to harass or upset that person. In today’s blog, we will go over Florida’s sexual cyberharassment statute that addresses the elements of an offense and the sentencing upon conviction.
Florida’s Sexual Cyberharassment Statute
Illicit images addressed in this statute could be nude or revealing photos or videos of another person, or photos or videos of the two engaged in sexual acts. The photos may have been taken with permission or have been shared by the alleged victim (but without permission to post publicly).
Under Florida’s sexual cyberharassment statute, it is criminal to publish a sexually explicit image of another person on the Internet that conveys the person’s identification information:
- without the person’s consent;
- without a legitimate purpose; and
- with the intent to cause substantial emotional distress.
Be aware that sexual cyberharassment occurs in Florida if the act of posting the photo or video occurred in Florida or the harm occurred there. For instance, if the defendant posts a photo of an ex-partner who lives in Florida from a computer in Texas without her consent and to cause emotional distress, the crime will be considered to have occurred in Florida.
A sexually explicit image refers to an image depicting nudity or a person engaged in sexual conduct. An image of nudity is one that shows enumerated parts or areas of the human body – such as male or female genitals – uncovered or covered only by see-through material. An image of a person engaged in sexual conduct includes acts of masturbation, actual or simulated sexual intercourse, and physical contact with a person’s clothed or unclothed genitals.
Note that identifying information, a significant element of a sexual cyberharassment charge, is something that allows the viewer to identify the person depicted, such as the person’s name, phone number, physical or email address, date of birth, Social Security number, or driver’s license number. So, to be guilty of sexual cyberharassment, the defendant must have posted the image of their ex-partner with the person’s full name or other identifying information (e.g. email address, social media handle), rather than as an anonymous, unidentified person.
Another requirement to be guilty of sexual cyberharassment is that the person post a photo or video intending to cause substantial emotional distress. In other words, the prosecutor must show evidence that the defendant acted to upset the other person or make the victim uncomfortable or ashamed. The most likely defense to this would probably be to argue that the post was done for a legitimate purpose and not to harass or upset the other person. For example, a journalist who does not know the person depicted might post a sexually explicit photo as part of an article and argue that they posted the photo solely for journalistic purposes. However, if someone posts such images attached with angry or malicious comments about the person depicted, it is likely that this could be used as evidence for an intent to emotionally distress.
Penalties and Sentencing for Sexual Cyberharassment
A first offense of sexual cyberharassment is considered a first degree misdemeanor and a second or subsequent offense is considered a third degree felony. A first degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $1000, as well as other court costs. A third degree felony in Florida carries up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5000, as well as other court costs.
A victim of sexual cyberharassment may choose to file a civil lawsuit against the offender, seeking to prevent the crime or to provide a remedy after the crime has been committed, including:
- injunctive relief;
- $5,000 for damages or actual damages, whichever is greater; and
- reasonable attorney fees and court costs.
Injunctive relief is a judge’s order to a person to do or to stop doing something. An injunctive order could direct a defendant to stop posting photos or remove posted photos of the other person. It is also possible that a victim might ask for the cost of psychiatric treatment to address their distress; lost wages when they missed work for being distraught; and moving costs if they had to move after the defendant published the person’s home address and people harassed them there.
Let Hubbs Law, P.A. Help
If you have been accused of committing sexual cyberharassment in Florida, consult an attorney immediately about your situation. There are a few required elements to proving sexual cyberharassment, such as the inclusion of identifying information and intent to cause emotional distress, so a good defense attorney can build a strong defense for your case with that in mind. Let our team at Hubbs Law, P.A. take a look at your situation and determine how to proceed with your defense in Florida.
Schedule a consultation with us at Hubbs Law, P.A. today to discuss your case!