Michigan “Revenge Porn” Bills Signed Into Law

A new state law will criminalize the distribution of sexually-explicit materials intended to threaten, coerce, or intimidate – a trend called “revenge porn” or “cyber-revenge.”

Revenge porn involves the posting nude photos of a victim on a website or on social media without his or her consent as a form of public shaming or humiliation. It often occurs after a break-up, when one partner distributes intimate material sent during the couple’s relationship.

Under the new bills, signed Tuesday by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, a person who distributes sexually-explicit materials with the intent to threaten, coerce, or intimidate another person faces a $500 fine and up to 93 days in jail. A second offense can result in a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

Local officials have applauded the new law. “Our office is pleased to see the bipartisan support these bills have received,” said Charlevoix County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gregory Justis. “It’s another tool in our toolbox to respond to the tremendous rise in the use of social media to engage in domestic abuse and cyber-harassment.”

State legislators have tried since 2014 to pass a law targeting revenge porn or cyber-revenge. With the new law, Michigan joins 27 other states with statutes specifically designed to prevent and respond to revenge porn.

The bills were sponsored by Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, and Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge.

“The new law balances our cherished freedoms of speech with the need to address behavior intended solely to harm another person, often seriously and irreversibly,” said Justis, who primarily handles cases involving domestic violence and criminal sexual conduct. “Revenge porn is about control and abuse, and the law targets only those who intend to engage in control and abuse.”

“It will also help shift the focus away from innocent victims, who are often blamed for their own victimization, to those who commit a serious crime,” he said.

Justis will conduct trainings on revenge porn and cyber-harassment for the Prosecuting Attorney’s Association of Michigan this June in Lansing and Houghton Lake. Paul Pesmark of the Detroit Police Department, an internet crimes specialist, will also be presenting.

“It is a real benefit to Charlevoix County and northern Michigan as a whole to have Greg, someone recognized as a state expert in this emerging problem area, to train and lead in this field,” Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof said.

 

About Allen Telgenhof

Allen Telgenhof is the Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney; beginning his 14th year of coaching high school baseball, now as varsity coach at Boyne Falls Public Schools. Graduated from Clio High School, Michigan State University and Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Father of four great children, ages 27, 25, 20 and 19.
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