Protection with North Carolina’s New “Revenge Porn” Law

Criminalizing “revenge porn” was a necessity after it became common for spouses and lovers to post naked pictures of their exes online after a break-up.  The internet has made the non-consensual distribution of sexually explicit photos and videos easy, and legislatures in 34 states across the U.S. have acted to protect victims by passing laws that make the posting of revenge porn result in either criminal penalties, civil penalties, or both.  North Carolina passed such a law in December 2015, but most state residents don’t currently know that this law protects them.

North Carolina’s revenge porn statute is sweeping in scope.  First, the law protects anyone who was or is in a relationship with the wrongdoer, including current or former spouses, people who lived together, people who have a child together, and even people who were ever in a dating relationship.  Second, North Carolina’s revenge porn law requires a victim to prove that the wrongdoer disclosed an image of the victim’s private parts—including genitals or breasts—to a third party without the victim’s consent to coerce, harass, demean, humiliate, or cause financial loss to the victim, or cause others to do the same.

The criminal penalty for violating North Carolina’s revenge porn statute is a Class H Felony, which may result in 6 years of jail time and fines of up to $10,000.00.  As a part of the criminal penalty, the judge may also order that the guilty party delete or destroy all copies of the distributed images.

Importantly, North Carolina has a civil penalty for violation of its revenge porn statute as well.  A victim of a scorned lover’s revenge may file a lawsuit and seek damages for any actual losses he or she suffered through job loss, emotional distress, or other actual losses.  The statute also requires the court to award damages in the following minimum amounts:  $1,000.00 per day for each violation of the statute, or $10,000.00 per violation, whichever is greater.

In addition to actual losses and the $10,000.00 per violation minimum award, North Carolina allows an award of punitive damages—meaning, additional monetary damages meant to punish the wrongdoer.  Finally, the state allows victims to recover all money spent on attorney fees and costs in bringing the civil action.

A lawsuit under North Carolina’s revenge porn statute must be brought within 1 year of the victim’s first discovery of the unauthorized image or video.  However, the state placed a cap on the latest an action may be brought:  in no event may a lawsuit be filed more than 7 years after the most recent disclosure of the naked picture or video.

Very few criminal cases have been brought in the State of North Carolina so far for violation of this new statute, and fewer civil lawsuits have been filed.  However, this important law is meant to protect victims throughout the state from actions that are sadly becoming more common:  posting naked pictures or videos of former lovers to embarrass and harass them.

If you have been a victim of “revenge porn,” contact the attorneys at Weaver, Bennett & Bland, P.A. for a free consultation to discuss your rights and remedies.