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Appeals court rules Texas ‘revenge porn’ law violates First Amendment

April 24, 2018  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Appeals court rules Texas ‘revenge porn’ law violates First Amendment Image courtesy of reuters.tumblr.com

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An appeals court in Texas last week struck down a law that criminalized the distribution of sexually explicit pictures and videos of an individual online without their consent, indicating that the “revenge porn” measure is a violation of the First Amendment.

The 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler — located roughly 98 miles east of Dallas — said the legislation is too broad and violated free speech with its constraints on sharing inherently expressive media on the internet, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

The “revenge porn” law “is an invalid content-based restriction and overbroad in the sense that it violates rights of too many third parties by restricting more speech than the Constitution permits,” the court ordered.

The court also referred to the law as vague, and that it breaches the rights of third parties who may inadvertently share the private photos.

Some lawmakers showed frustration with the court’s ruling.

“I am disappointed that a state appeals court has struck down Texas’ “revenge porn” legislation that made it illegal to post intimate photos without consent,” state Representative Matt Shaheen said on Twitter. “This disgusting act must be punished.”

Texas officials intend to appeal a ruling that voided a law making it a crime to share intimate pictures or video from a current or former relationship.

The 2015 legislation, enacted by Republican Governor Greg Abbott, made it a crime to post a person’s private content on the internet without their permission. The misdemeanor punishment carried a charge of up to a year behind bars and a penalty of up to $4,000.

Similar statutes exist in many other states, though their consequences vary. New Jersey punishments bear no jail time, but violators can face a penalty of up to $30,000. In California, it’s punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

The Texas court’s decision hindered the law in about a dozen counties in Texas under the 12th Court of Appeals.

Alongside its ruling, the court dismissed a revenge porn charge against Jordan Bartlett Jones before his trial for sharing a naked photo of a woman that showed her identity,

The Office of State Prosecuting Attorney will attempt to overturn the ruling in an appeal. If unsuccessful, the agency will bring it to the Court of Criminal Appeals — Texas’ highest court.

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