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Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
Former Cook County Felony Prosecutor

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Revenge Porn: What Happens If You Get Charged in Illinois?

We use computers and smartphones for almost everything in modern society. This has affected many aspects of society, including criminal activity.

The advent of smartphones with high-definition cameras has increased the incidence of “revenge porn,” a crime in which the defendant posts online or otherwise distributes private sexual images of the victim without the victim’s consent.

Below, we provide a guide to revenge porn, including how Illinois defines and prosecutes the crime, civil actions faced by some defendants, and recent revenge porn legislation.

Revenge Porn Defined

Revenge porn, or non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images, occurs when the defendant posts, publishes or distributes private sexual images of a subject 18 or older without the subject’s consent.

The victim must be identifiable in the image, or the identity of the victim must be posted with the image for this to be considered revenge porn. Often, an explicit photo or video is sent consensually during a romantic relationship, and then exploited by the defendant when the relationship is over — hence the name.

For the purpose of revenge porn laws, a sexual image is defined as a photo,video, digital recording or other portrayal of the subject engaged in a sex act, or with intimate parts partially or completely visible, including through transparent clothing.

Criminal Penalties for Revenge Porn

If you are convicted of revenge porn, you will face serious criminal consequences. Revenge porn is considered a Class 4 Felony, punishable by 1-3 years of imprisonment or 30 months of probation, and a fine up to $25,000.

If the defendant has had a prior Class 4 or more serious felony conviction of any type within the last ten years, revenge porn will be sentenced as an Extended Class 4 Felony, which is punishable by 3-6 years of imprisonment.

Additionally, defendants are left with a criminal record that compromises employment, housing and education prospects, together with the consequences of being a convicted felon.

Civil Action for Revenge Porn

In addition to the criminal penalties for revenge porn, victims are also allowed to take civil actions to sue their abusers for damages. The damages are often substantial, covering losses such as emotional distress and lost wages resulting from employment consequences.

This means that in addition to the serious criminal penalties and long-term consequences of having a criminal record, revenge porn offenders can also face civil suits for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Recent Changes to Illinois Revenge Porn Laws

Illinois first criminalized revenge porn in 2014, but this did little to deter the practice. In fact, revenge porn offenses are increasing in Illinois and nationwide.

Therefore, Illinois lawmakers recently passed new legislation allowing victims to seek financial compensation through the Crime Victims Compensation Act. Victims are provided up to $27,000 in compensation to recover from the crime, in addition to any civil damages paid by the defendant.

According to lawmakers, the goal of this legislation is to “send the message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated in our community.”

In other words, revenge porn is currently a major priority for the Illinois criminal justice system, as are other sexual crimes. We can therefore expect aggressive investigation and prosecution of any and all revenge porn allegations.

Because prosecutors are likely to pursue these cases more aggressively, it’s important to understand the laws surrounding revenge porn in Illinois, and be aware of the potential for prosecution. Further, if you are accused, it’s imperative to fight back with the strongest possible defense. 

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About the Author:

Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.

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