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Lawmakers review penalties to NC’s first revenge porn law

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Lawmakers agree that North Carolina’s first “revenge porn” law is a step toward ending the hurt and embarrassment that can come from having one’s naked and confidential images posted online.

But Senators postponed their vote on Tuesday and opted to spend more time looking into what the proper punishment should be for first-time offenders and minors who spread salacious images.

The Senate took up the revenge porn measure after it passed the House unanimously in April. The bill would make it illegal to spread nude or sexual images that identify a person with the intent to “coerce, harass, intimidate, demean, humiliate or cause financial loss.”

The bill would make anyone found guilty of posting revenge porn subject to felony changes and a prison sentence of up to 25 months. Offenders could also be sued for up to $10,000 by their victims.

Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, introduced an amendment during Tuesday’s Senate debate to make the crime a misdemeanor for first-time offenders and minors.

The amendment “sort of lessens the impact on the kids who do stupid stuff,” said Robinson.

Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, who introduced the bill in the Senate, agreed with Robinson, telling his colleagues on the floor “all of us have done stupid things whether we be 16 or in our 50s.”

Revenge porn laws have been passed in 24 states with all but three coming since 2013, according to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, which advocates for the passage of such laws.

Mary Anne Franks of CCRI called the proposed North Carolina law “fairly strong” compared to other states. However, she said that lowering the offense from a felony to misdemeanor might dissuade police departments from mounting costly cyber investigations.

“It’s going to be a lot harder for cases to be investigated and prosecuted if it’s a misdemeanor,” Franks said.

A CCRI survey shows that a vast majority of reported victims of revenge porn are female and most are between the ages of 18 and 30. The majority of offenders were ex-partners, the survey found.

Another amendment proposed by Rep. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, would commission a study to look into the issue of imposing the photo of one person over the naked or sexual image of another person.

“In the world of politics they can do this to you ladies and gentleman, as well anyone else,” Tillman said.

After giving tentative approval to the bill without the Robinson’s amendment, the Senators tabled a final vote to allow more time to review and discuss the proposal to reduce penalties.

The Senate is scheduled to hold a final debate and vote on the bill Monday. If passed it will go to the House for approval.

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