In a word, the consequences for revenge porn in Texas are fierce. Here’s why.

Texas’s revenge porn statute found at Texas Penal Code Section 21.16 became effective on September 1, 2015. If found guilty of breaking the law, the defendant faces a Class A Misdemeanor.

Does this mean you shouldn’t hire an experienced attorney to fight the charge?

Of course not. You should vigorously fight a revenge porn charge:

  •  Realize that a Class A Misdemeanor is the most serious misdemeanor offense in Texas.
  • If you’re found guilty or plead no contest to disclosing, promoting, or distributing revenge porn, you face up to one year behind bars and up to $4,000 in fines.
  • What’s more, after serving time, you will have a criminal record.

If that’s not enough to convince you, realize that juries have awarded significant monetary damages to defendants in civil revenge porn lawsuits. A Harris County jury voted to award a woman a half million dollars for emotional distress caused by her former boyfriend’s share of an intimate Skype interlude.

Other plaintiffs are suing Internet providers such as GoDaddy.com for distributing such content on their servers. However, even if the host or website is based outside of Texas or the United States, if the company does business in Texas, the new law says it’s possible for state prosecutors to go after them.

Texas and other states have made revenge porn a criminal offense. It considers the sharing, distributing, or publishing of intimate photos (without the person depicted in the images, videos, etc.) as a loss of privacy.

Are you facing a revenge porn charge in Texas?
Contact defense attorney Matthew D. Sharp for a consultation 
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“The Relationship Privacy Act:” Texas Revenge Porn Statute

It is unfortunately all too common to hear stories about current and former intimate partners’ posting revenge porn on the Internet.

Texas Penal Code Section 21.16 refers to the intimate parts of a person, including his or her naked genitalia, female nipple, pubic area, buttocks, or anus.

An individual breaks the law:

  • When he or she fails to obtain the “effective consent” of the person depicted, or intentional disclosure of the visual material that depicts another individual’s intimate parts (whether exposure or when he or she is engaged in conducting a sexual act);
  • When he or she obtained or created the visual material in a circumstance in which the person depicted reasonably believed the material would be kept private;
  • When the disclosure of the material causes the depicted individual harm; and
  • When the disclosure of the material reveals the depicted individual’s identity through any means including 1) accompaniment of information or material(s) related to the images, or 2) information or material(s) from a third-party disclose the depicted individual’s identity.
  • When an individual intentionally makes a threat to disclose the visual materials (without obtaining the depicted individual’s consent) or a scenario in which the individual threatens to receive a benefit 1) in exchange for not following through with disclosure or 2) in connection with a disclosure threat.
  • When he or she promotes such visual materials via an Internet website or via another publication forum (owned and operated by the actor).

The law says it isn’t a defense if the depicted person 1) consented to create or created the visual material or 2) voluntarily transmitted or gave the materials to the actor.

Revenge Porn Civil Liability in the State of Texas

Chapter 98B of Texas’s Civil Practice and Remedies Code says that a defendant may be liable to the depicted person (in “intimate visual material”) for financial damages that arise from disclosure of the material 1) if the defendant disclosed the material without obtaining the “effective consent” of the person depicted, 2) if the intimate visual materials were obtained by the accused or created in a circumstance in which the person depicted reasonably expected the materials were for private use only, 3) if the disclosure of the visual materials results in harm to the depicted individual, 4) the disclosure in some manner reveals the depicted party’s identity, 5) if he or she promoted the visual materials via an Internet website or another publication forum that he or she owns/owned.

Victims of such non-consensual disclosure are entitled to relief under the law, including:

  • Damages of $1,000 for each willful-intentional violation
  • Damages of $500 for each violation (not deemed willful or intentional)
  • Mental anguish damages
  • Court costs plus reasonable attorney’s fees

If the offender commits an offense under this section of Texas law as well as an offense under the law, he or she may be prosecuted under either or both laws.

Putting an End to Revenge Porn in Texas

In 2015, Texas joined other states in passing revenge porn laws. However, because revenge porn knows no state boundaries on the Internet, groups like the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative wants federal laws to protect women.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas argues that laws must be clear to avoid creating “unintended victims.” For instance, if the law doesn’t clarify that images are shared with lack of consent and the intent to harass the victim, it is easier to criminalize the distribution, sharing, or promotion of explicit images.

Consequences of Sexting in Texas

Sexting involves sending intimate images or photographs through an electronic device like a tablet or smartphone. Before 2011, sexting between two or more minors was viewed as the promotion of child pornography. When adults were involved, it was considered a potential felony offense that could mean years in prison.

The Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 407 in 2011, determining the sending of sexually explicit images of minor individuals a misdemeanor:

  • A first offense is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine.
  • A second offense is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.
  • If sexually explicit messages were transmitted with the intention to harass, harm, embarrass or abuse another party, the first-time offender faces a possible Class B misdemeanor.
  • If the offender forwarded sexually explicit material or messages to another party, he or she may be charged with a Class B misdemeanor as well.

Individuals less than 17 years old may not face prosecution for sexting when and if the images transmitted were of the sender and recipient, the two individuals were in an intimate-dating relationship, and were within a two-year age difference (even when one older than 18 years of age).

Courts require the minors’ parents to appear with their children in court when sexting charges are presented:

  • The court may require the teen(s) and/or their parents to attend educational programs concerning sexting dangers.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Houston

Not only is revenge porn a crime, it is possible to face financial responsibility if the plaintiff creates a civil cause of action. In other words, the alleged victim of revenge porn materials can sue the individual who posted the images or videos—in addition to holding that individual criminally responsible for the behavior.

If you or your teenaged child is facing a sexting or revenge porn charge, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side as soon as possible. We will work aggressively to protect your rights. Contact The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp at 713-868-6100 to schedule an initial case evaluation now.

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