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Revenge porn is the nonconsensual distribution of sexual images or videos thought to be private with malicious intent. While being a relatively new crime arising from the proliferation of digital cameras on virtually every modern device, it’s by no means rare. In 2016, a study found that one in 25 Americans has been threatened with or been the victim of revenge porn.

Federal law has yet to make revenge porn a crime, although it can be a federal crime if the subject is younger than 18. The general criminality of revenge porn is specific to state law, with most states having laws against it – including Minnesota.

Revenge porn carries severe penalties that can do irreparable damage to an alleged perpetrator’s finances and reputation, even if they’re falsely accused. If you’re facing charges related to revenge porn, The Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Service (MNLRIS) can connect you with private practice criminal defense attorneys in Minnesota experienced with cases like yours.

What Are Minnesota’s Laws About Revenge Porn?

According to Minnesota law, pornographic material officially becomes revenge porn when:

  • The person in the media is identifiable by the image or film, by the victim, by the perpetrator or by explicit personal information printed on the material.
  • The perpetrator knows or should have known that the person in the film didn’t consent to the circulation of the film or images.
  • The perpetrator knew or should have known the person in the film had a reasonable expectation of privacy based on how the media was recorded. For example, commercial pornography that was made for public and legal sale can’t be considered revenge porn.

There are some exceptions to these rules. If the pornographic material was released in the course of a criminal investigation, while reporting an unlawful event or during a trial for reasons supported by the judicial system, it isn’t considered revenge porn. Occasionally, private images or films may also be shown to doctors or therapists in the course of seeking legitimate medical help. That said, if the material is further disseminated after these facts, its legality may be called into question.

Penalties For Revenge Porn

In Minnesota, revenge porn is a gross misdemeanor that’s punishable by three years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. However, if aggravating factors are present, the charge may be elevated to a felony. These factors include:

  • If the victim suffered financial losses due to the release of the media.
  • If the perpetrator made a profit off it in a noncommercial setting or released the media with that intent.
  • If the media was posted online or if the perpetrator created a website with the purpose of digitally disseminating the sensitive material.
  • If the media was released with the intent to harass the victim, or with the intent to adversely affect the victim’s privacy and safety.
  • If the media was stolen from the victim. This also means that even if the victim filmed or shot the material, as long as the perpetrator distributed it without their consent, it’s a crime.
  • If the perpetrator has been convicted of revenge porn prior.

If any of the above aggravating factors are present, perpetrators could be facing a felony charge, punishable by five years in prison and/or upwards of $10,000 in fines.

How to Defend Yourself From Revenge Porn Claims

Minnesota doesn’t consider the defense that the victim consented a valid legal defense, but there are some potential strategies. Criminal defense lawyers may emphasize the alleged perpetrator’s lack of intent (such as if their devices were hacked and released to the public by someone else or the public release was an accident), the lack of harm or damages to the victim or potentially the authenticity of the material and whether they are the true perpetrator of the dissemination or not.

Find Aggressive and Attentive Legal Assistance Easily in Minnesota

Everyone may be owed a fair trial in the U.S., but not all criminal defense lawyers are equal in skill, experience and time. Relying on overworked public defenders who are struggling to handle hundreds of cases each year may not be in your best interest. At Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Service (MNLRIS), we strive to rectify this disparity by connecting people with experienced private practice criminal defense attorneys.

Our referral counselors will schedule appointments with a competent legal advisor for you through our Misdemeanor Defense Project, which connects defendants with attorneys who can help them prepare for court.

Learn more about how we can assist by calling us at (612) 752-6699.