What happens if you agreed to share sexually oriented digital pictures or videos with someone that you thought was special to you, and then you break up?

With practically every cell phone doubling as a camera, it has become all too tempting for people to create and distribute sexually oriented pictures and videos.  These same pictures and videos, originally meant to convey intimacy, far too often become the weapons for revenge during a breakup.  Posting such material on the internet is popularly referred to as “Revenge Porn.”  Until recently, there was not much that a victim could do to stop it.  After all, the images were consensual, and assuming the images did not include the use of people underage, the images were likely not illegal.  However, the legislature fixed this loophole in the law as of March 22, 2019, when H.B. 497 became law in Ohio.  Under the new law, found at R.C. 2917.211, it is a crime to distribute sexually oriented pictures and videos as set forth below:

(B) No person shall knowingly disseminate an image of another person if all of the following apply:

(1) The person in the image is eighteen years of age or older.

(2) The person in the image can be identified from the image itself or from information displayed in connection with the image and the offender supplied the identifying information.

(3) The person in the image is in a state of nudity or is engaged in a sexual act.

(4) The image is disseminated without consent from the person in the image.

(5) The image is disseminated with intent to harm the person in the image.

Violating this law will result in a third, second, or first-degree misdemeanor, depending on the number of prior convictions.  But more importantly, the legislature gave the victim other rights.  By that I mean the legislature is allowing the victim of “Revenge Porn” to sue and to recover damages, including legal fees, and punitive damages, from the offender.  Granted in R.C. 2307.66 under the new law, the victim has the following rights to sue the person that disseminated the material:

(A) A victim of a violation of section 2917.211 of the Revised Code has and may commence a civil cause of action against the offender for any of the following, in addition to reasonable attorney’s fees and the costs of bringing the action:

(1) An injunction or a temporary restraining order prohibiting further dissemination of the image that is the subject of the violation;

(2) Compensatory and punitive damages for harm resulting from the violation.

(B) The victim shall be presumed to have suffered harm as a result of the nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images.

(C) The cause of action created by this section is in addition to any other cause of action available under statutory or common law.

(D) As used in this section, “victim” has the same meaning as in section 2930.01 of the Revised Code.

Interestingly, because the legislature allows for the recovery of damages, and punitive damages, based upon an underlying criminal statute, I believe that any money awarded to a victim would not be dischargeable in bankruptcy by the perpetrator.  In other words, the victim should forever be allowed to garnish wages and seize assets until the verdict is paid in full, and there is nothing the perpetrator can do in bankruptcy court to stop it, provided your attorney acts to protect your case.

If you are a victim, there are ways to protect your dignity and your identity should you decide to sue someone for posting images of you.  Your name should not need to appear in the public records of the courthouse if litigated properly.  If you have been the victim of “Revenge Porn” in Ohio, trust us to protect your rights.  Please call Phillips Law Firm, Inc. at (513) 985-2500 or email John H. Phillips at [email protected].   We would be glad to help you!