Everything You Need to Know About Revenge Porn Laws in California

The revenge porn laws in California frequently come into play when discussing domestic violence as well as Family Code section 6320. Understanding California’s revenge porn law will help you minimize the negative effects of the abuse and increase the perpetrator’s chances of justice. 

What Is Revenge Porn? 

Revenge porn is a case when someone shares sexual videos or pics of another person without that person’s consent. These photos and videos had been intended to be private. 

The goal behind revenge porn is usually to humiliate the person in the content, and this type of threat typically comes from a past sexual partner. 

Revenge porn can affect anyone, and even celebrities have had issues regarding it, including Rihanna, Paris Hilton, and Kim Kardashian. 

A Common Example of Revenge Porn

One common example of revenge porn would be if there is content originally taken with consent due to some connection or relationship between the photographer or videographer and the person in the image or video. That consent only applies to that original situation, and this becomes revenge porn if the person who holds the content threatens the victim using it. An example of a threat would be to share the content with friends or family if the victim does not complete specific actions. 

California Revenge Porn Laws Make It Illegal

The good news about California porn laws is that revenge porn is illegal. This is also the case in most other states. Victims of revenge porn can bring a lawsuit against the person who shared the content. This can lead to monetary damages, as well as other consequences. 

revenge porn is illegal in california and most other states

 

Understanding California Family Code Section 6320 and Its Definition of Abuse 

As mentioned, Family Code section 6320 is frequently relevant when it comes to revenge porn. To understand that relevance, you need to first learn a little about this section of the Family Code and its definition of abuse. 

Under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (DVPA), to get a restraining order for domestic violence, there must be allegations of “abuse” within the definition outlined in the DVPA. Notably, the DVPA does not only define abuse as a physical act, and there does not need to be physical assault or injury. 

Abuse can include “disturbing the peace of the other party.” Translated into straightforward phrasing, this definition of abuse is understood to mean behavior that “destroys the mental or emotional calm of the other party.” 

California Penal Code Section 647(j)(4)

This section of the California Penal Code explicitly makes it illegal to publish private videos and photos. This law has been in place since 2014 and can be summarized as: posting or sharing explicit images of someone without that person’s permission is illegal. 

In further detail, it makes it illegal to intentionally distribute images that include another person’s intimate body parts or them engaging in sexual behavior with the understanding that the images were meant to be confidential and the goal of emotional harm, which leads to distress. The distribution does not have to be with the goal of “revenge,” despite being commonly referred to as a revenge porn law. The only important requirement here is the intent of emotional harm. 

Classifying Revenge Porn as Abuse

Based on the definitions in the DVPA, revenge porn laws in California classify this type of act as abuse, as it ruins the victim’s emotional or mental calm. Those who have worked with revenge porn victims in the past will have no doubt that this is a type of abuse to cause emotional or mental harm. Causing emotional damage clearly “destroys the mental or emotional calm of the other party.” 

Even when not using technical terms, it is hard not to see how revenge porn in California would count as abuse. It leads to a feeling of powerlessness and the inability to stop the person in question from harming you, in this case emotionally. 

Actions That Can Be Taken to Protect You Under California Revenge Porn Law

Revenge porn convictions can occur in criminal or civil court. It can lead to jail time, significant fines, and a permanent criminal record in criminal court. Distributing revenge porn in California is a misdemeanor, and it can lead to $1,000 in fines and six months of prison. At a second conviction, this can increase to a year in prison. Criminal records can make it harder to get a job, rent or buy a home, work at all in certain fields, or win a child custody case. 

revenge porn handcuffs prison time california

Many victims of revenge porn opt to fight the case in civil courts, however, as they typically have a lower burden of proof. In civil court, you could work to get a restraining order to prevent future contact and the emotional or physical threats associated with it. Some injunctions will force your ex-partner to remove the content from the internet right away. You could also receive compensation for lost income as well as pain and suffering and any other consequences from the revenge porn. 

The Potential Impact of Revenge Porn on Child Custody and Divorce Cases in California

In addition to the monetary damages associated with a lawsuit, revenge porn can significantly impact other family law cases in California, including divorce and child custody cases. 

The biggest reason that revenge porn will affect these types of cases is due to its classification as domestic violence, combined with the ability to get a restraining order to keep the offender away. 

Having a restraining order or even just a domestic violence crime on their record has an obvious negative effect on the offender’s ability to win a custody battle. This is particularly reassuring for a parent who is a revenge porn victim when the other parent is the offender. 

The Bottom Line

Revenge porn laws in California classify this type of distribution of content without consent as a form of abuse and domestic violence. Victims of revenge porn are protected by the ability to pursue criminal or civil charges, including injunctions to remove the content, monetary compensation, and restraining orders.