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Revenge porn legislation gains traction in Annapolis

Tuesday - 2/25/2014, 7:01am  ET

WASHINGTON -- Maryland's House of Delegates will hear the second reading of the "revenge porn" bill, and sponsor Del. Luiz Simmons, D-Montgomery County, says it could set a model for the rest of the country.

"I think we are in the midst of an epidemic of people trying to slander and humiliate other people by publishing pictures of other people in nude or semi-nude situations where the person had an expectation that the picture would remain private," Simmons says.

His bill would require the prosecutor to prove the defendant intentionally posted a private photo online with the goal of hurting the person pictured, and that harm was done.

"In many cases, these pictures are being acquired without the knowledge or the consent of the individual. This is astonishingly quite widespread," Simmons says.

Simmons expects he'll get pushback when he presents the bill, especially on First Amendment grounds.

"There will be some people who philosophically will say if a picture of you is taken, you should bear the consequences. I think that's misguided," he says.

But Simmons is concerned for those who are affected by revenge porn who don't have a legal leg to stand on.

"The extortion laws don't entirely grab it. The theft laws don't entirely grab it. This will address it narrowly, but it will be effective and the consequences will be very real," Simmons says.

It could mean a maximum of three years in prison.

"It is a criminal penalty. If a prosecutor proved each and every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, you'd be subject to incarceration as you would be for drunk driving or for malicious destruction of property or assaulting another human being," Simmons says.

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