Revenge Porn Now Illegal in Utah

The work of many legislators, activists and involved citizens culminated in the Gold Room of the Utah State Capitol on Tuesday when Governor Gary Herbert signed several bills into law which deal with some of society’s most sensitive subjects. From so-called “revenge porn” to childhood education of sexual abuse to human trafficking, Utah now has new legal responses to perpetrators of crimes involving the exploitation of others.

House Bill 71 – Distribution of Intimate Images, often referred to as the “revenge porn” bill this past legislative session, sponsored by the bi-partisan team of Representatives Marie Poulson (Democrat – Cottonwood Heights) and Craig Hall (Republican – West Valley City) with Senator Todd Weiler (Republican – Woods Cross) sponsoring the bill in the Senate, puts a stop to publishing or distributing the intimate images of a partner as vindictive or harmful speech, falling under similar statutes as verbal assault. The bill addresses the problem that is more prevalent than one might imagine, wherein photos and video are taken in a relationship, with or with without consent, and is then used as a threat during the relationship or as a spiteful attack after the relationship ends.

The bill itself specifically addresses the distribution of this kind of material in the context of modern and conventional communications and correspondence and makes it a class A misdemeanor if such intimate images are distributed the first time an individual is found guilty of the crime and a third degree felony if an individual is a repeat offender.

Herbert commended the effort that showed it is possible for a bi-partisan team to work together, at least in Utah if not in Washington, D.C.

Poulson described their legislative partnership as a “tag team” and said she was responsible for presenting the personal experiences of victims of this kind of conflict to underscore the need for the law while Hall and Weiler, both attorneys, reviewed the bill’s drafting effort and substitutions to ensure that the final language would pass legal muster and any possible constitutional challenge.

The result of this joint effort culminated Tuesday with the signature of Herbert on the ceremonial bill. The Governor was pleased to offer his endorsement of the new law defining the way that Utahns should conduct their personal communications online and elsewhere.

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