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Jan Brewer Signs Bill Making "Revenge Porn" a Felony

Governor Jan Brewer has signed a bill that will make it a felony offense to share someone else's nude pictures without his or her permission.

Several other states have considered or passed similar laws recently, but the penalties passed in Arizona's law are tougher than most: If the person in the images is recognizable, the presumptive sentence is 2 1/2 years in prison.

See also:
-Revenge-Porn Bill "Almost Certainly Unconstitutional," UA Law Professor Says

Specifically, the new law will make it:

Unlawful to intentionally disclose, display, distribute, publish, advertise or offer a photograph, videotape, film or digital recording of another person in a state of nudity or engaged in specific sexual activities if the person knows or should have known that the depicted person has not consented to the disclosure.

The law makes some obvious exemptions, like when reporting illegal activity to law enforcement, or during lawful practices of medical treatment, or images involving "voluntary exposure" in public.

The law makes the sharing of so-called "revenge porn" a class-five felony, unless the person in the images is recognizable, which makes the crime a class-four felony (on a scale of one to six, class one coming with the harshest penalties, and class six having the least-harsh).

The "unlawful distribution of private images" can also be considered a domestic-violence crime under the new law, which can include even harsher penalties, more intense release conditions from jail, or implications in custody issues.

This bill ended up being passed overwhelmingly by legislators, despite quite a few early concerns.

A University of Arizona law professor told New Times that the bill as initially proposed was "almost certainly unconstitutional." Although the bill was amended several times, it's really not that much different from its initial form.

The professor, Derek Bambauer, raised the hypothetical situation that someone had an image of Monica Lewinsky and President Bill Clinton engaged in a sex act.

"I publish it in the newspaper," he explained. "Can I be prosecuted? Clearly not -- it's a matter of public concern (the president is having an affair with an intern, a government employee), so the First Amendment blocks the prosecution."

The final form of the law doesn't provide an exemption for such a situation.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers also seemed apprehensive early on. Republican Representative Eddie Farnsworth, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, didn't seem to be a fan early on. He argued in that committee that a person who takes nude photos of themselves should know there's a possibility those images would end up online.

"You can't absolve somebody of complete stupidity," Farnsworth said.

Still, at the end of the hearing, the bill passed that committee on a unanimous vote, and passed on a 23-0 vote in the Senate, and a 54-0 vote in the House.

The bill was sponsored by Republican Representative J.D. Mesnard.

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