Could you be a victim of “revenge” porn? Is there a specific law against revenge porn here in Colorado? How much legal protection do victims have? And what if you are accused of posting revenge porn in the state of Colorado? What does it require to convict someone for posting revenge porn, and what criminal penalties will a convicted offender face?

It’s a growing concern everywhere. Revenge porn has been banned by the military, Facebook is fighting it, and revenge porn cases are flooding both the civil and criminal courts. And it can happen to anyone – actresses, other celebrities, and apparently in Colorado, scores of innocent, regular people too. Since this state’s revenge porn statute took effect three years ago, 192 misdemeanor revenge porn charges have been filed by Colorado prosecutors.

However, according to the Denver Post, only about one-third of those revenge porn charges – about 36 percent – resulted in convictions. In some cases, charges were dismissed, and in other cases, defendants were offered and accepted plea bargains. Denver District Attorney Beth McCann voted in favor of the law as a legislator back in 2014. She says, “Dismissals are unusual, but a vast majority of our cases will end up in plea agreements.”

WHY ARE REVENGE PORN CASES TOUGH TO PROVE?

Why are there so many plea agreements in revenge porn cases? A revenge porn charge is always difficult to prove, and the Colorado law – according to some observers – is a particularly weak statute. When revenge porn is posted online, proving who posted it sometimes cannot be done. It’s often simply one person’s word against another person’s; establishing proof beyond a reasonable doubt may be impossible.

Does the new law, then, offer victims of revenge porn any genuine legal protections at all? Not in some cases, while in other scenarios, the law really is not precise or comprehensive. It does not, for example, extend to photographs or videos of someone who is wearing clothes, even if that person is engaged in a sexual act.

And even if a perpetrator who posts revenge porn is identified, that doesn’t necessarily mean the material is erased from the internet. A victim of revenge porn may have to obtain a court order which compels websites to remove the revenge porn material. The sad reality, however, is that some items may be so extensively copied or “mirrored” online that they are never really, fully, entirely removed from the internet.

IS REVENGE PORN WIDESPREAD? HOW ARE LAWMAKERS RESPONDING?

According to the non-profit Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, one in eight users of social media has been victimized by nonconsensual pornography. In 2016, federal legislation to criminalize the distribution of explicit images of someone without that person’s permission was introduced in the House of Representatives and is now being considered by the House Judiciary Committee. Some type of revenge porn law, however, is already on the books in 38 of the 50 states.

The lack of assured anonymity for alleged victims is a major concern for the critics of Colorado’s revenge porn law. Even when a revenge porn victim is not named in the court documents, there may be enough facts in those documents – which must identify a defendant – to point to a particular victim.

In fact, some Colorado attorneys who represent alleged revenge porn victims are bypassing the criminal statute entirely and are instead suing the alleged perpetrators in Colorado’s civil courts – for violation of privacy or for defamation of character. Nevertheless, while the Colorado revenge porn statute may be considered “weak” by some, of the 117 cases that have been resolved since the law took effect, 42 have ended with a conviction or a guilty plea.

HOW CAN A DEFENSE ATTORNEY HELP?

If you are accused of posting revenge porn in Colorado – or charged with any crime related to pornography and the internet – arrange at once to speak with an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney. It is imperative to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer advising you, protecting your rights, and fighting for justice on your behalf as early as possible.

The 2014 Colorado law makes it a Class One misdemeanor to publish explicit images of someone without that person’s consent. In addition to any other sentence the court may deem proper, upon conviction the defendant shall be fined up to $10,000. Someone who has been the victim of revenge porn in Colorado may also bring a civil lawsuit against the person who posted the images.

If you are charged in a revenge porn case in Colorado, you will need an experienced criminal defense attorney advocating on your behalf. It is possible, for example, that another person may have posted the revenge porn from your own computer or even from some other device without your consent or knowledge.

WHAT ARE THE OTHER DEFENSES AGAINST A REVENGE PORN CHARGE?

If law enforcement officers violated your rights while gathering evidence to build a revenge porn case against you, that charge can probably be dismissed. Sometimes a revenge porn allegation is simply the result of a mistake or a misunderstanding, with no criminal intent. Even so, if you are the defendant, you’ll need to have an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney handle your case, protect your rights, and if necessary, defend you against the charge in a criminal trial.

Colorado is not the only state where some have contended that revenge porn laws are ambiguously written and difficult to enforce. Arizona’s law, for instance, was characterized by the American Civil Liberties Union as an unconstitutional imposition on free speech. Prosecutors feel their hands are somewhat tied, since the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996 prohibits any prosecution of website owners for third-party content.

If you are accused of an online crime – whether it’s revenge porn, child porn, a financial crime, or some other computer-related misdemeanor or felony, seek legal help at once. Innocent people are sometimes confused or cajoled into clicking a link they shouldn’t click, and they can end up technically committing a crime without even realizing it.

Here in Colorado, if you are charged with any misdemeanor or felony related to revenge porn, computers, or the internet, retain the advice and services of an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney at once. Don’t take any chances with your reputation, your record, and your future.

By: Dan Murphy

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy provides clients in the Denver area with aggressive and sympathetic legal representation. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1994 and worked as a public defender before starting his own practice in 1996. He has defended clients accused of the most difficult criminal and alcohol-related charges. He also serves as a Moot Court Judge for Denver-area law students who rely on his mentorship.