Sex Crimes: Sexual Cyberharassment

Computers have changed so much about our daily lives, and they’ve had a huge impact on crime as well. With time, the number of offenses has increased as individuals have used computer technology to better organize every aspect of their lives, from finances and dating to work and process automation. This has created a variety of gray areas and led to unclear laws attempting to regulate the types of information that can be posted online or shared.

One aspect of online culture that is changing both the dating and the legal landscape is the sharing of explicit personal photographs or nudes. Thanks to easy access to exceptional cameras right in our pockets, we’re able to instantly share photos, including nude or sexually explicit content with loved ones. At the same time, digital technology has made it easier than ever to distribute these types of photos or disseminate them online. This has led to a rise in what Florida has called sexual cyberharassment.

What is Sexual Cyberharassment in Florida?

Sexual cyberharassment is more commonly known as revenge porn. At its most basic, it’s the act of publishing online another individual’s nude or sexually explicit photos without their consent. The reason it’s known as revenge porn is that this crime is associated with spurned lovers with access to their former partner’s naked photos.

The idea is that after a breakup, the spurned lover, who has maintained access to previously shared sexually explicit photos, posts the photos online in a bid to embarrass or harass their previous partner. These photos are difficult to remove from the internet and can lead to a variety of consequences for the depicted individual, both professionally and personally.

Florida Statute 784.049 states that:

“Sexually cyberharass” means to publish to an Internet website or disseminate through electronic means to another person a sexually explicit image of a person that contains or conveys the personal identification information of the depicted person without the depicted person’s consent, contrary to the depicted person’s reasonable expectation that the image would remain private, for no legitimate purpose, with the intent of causing substantial emotional distress to the depicted person. Evidence that the depicted person sent a sexually explicit image to another person does not, on its own, remove his or her reasonable expectation of privacy for that image.

This statute was enacted in an attempt to protect individuals who willingly share explicit photographs with their partners, but it can also have an impact on artistic expression. It specifically states that the sharing of a photo by the person in the photo (the depicted person) doesn’t mean they are giving up their right to privacy, and it also makes it clear that online dissemination is only illegal if it:

  • Includes personal information with consent,
  • Has no legitimate purpose, and
  • Causes substantial distress.

Punishment for Sexual Cyberharassment in Florida

If you are being charged with sexual cyberharassment for the first time—a misdemeanor— a guilty verdict can lead to a 1-year jail sentence, one year of probation, and a $1,000 fine.

If you’ve previously been convicted of sexual cyberharassment and are facing a second charge, the potential punishment is more severe. Second Offense Sexual Cyberharassment is a third degree felony and is punishable by up to five years in prison, five years of probation, a fine of up to $5,000, and 60 days without a vehicle.

Defending Against a Sexual Cyberharassment Charge in Florida

An effective defense of a sexual cyberharassment charge requires looking at the letter of the law. It’s not enough to tell a story, your Tampa sex crimes lawyer must illustrate that your actions do not amount to sexual cyberharassment and that the prosecution doesn’t have a case.

Consent

One way to challenge a sexual cyberharassment charge is to show that the depicted individual did consent to having their image posted online. Because Florida Statute 784.049 is premised around the idea of an individual posting a sexually explicit image of another without their consent, showing that the depicted individual did indeed consent to having their photo shared or disseminated can help create reasonable doubt or even lead to charges being dropped.

Anonymity

One of the components of Florida Statute 784.049 is that the posted image must contain information that identifies the individual in the photo or video. This can be a name, an online moniker, or other identifier. It can be argued that sexual cyberharassment did not occur because the individual in the photo or video was not identified by the poster.

No Right to Privacy

If an individual sends an explicit photo to one person, according to the law, they still have a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, what if they send that photograph to numerous people or post it online themselves? Depending on the situation, a skilled lawyer may be able to show that the depicted individual had not reasonable expectation of privacy because they themselves initially disseminated the photograph in question with too many individuals.

Lack of Distress

If the image posted was not intended to, or does not, cause severe emotional distress, it can be argued that the bar for sexual cyberharassment was not met.

In addition, your Tampa sex crimes lawyer may argue that you did not knowingly publish the photograph, or that you published the photograph for a legitimate purpose such as an art portfolio.

Ultimately, prosecutors will rely on a confession for this sort of crime, unless there was a witness that saw the defendant publish the photograph. Otherwise, their evidence is circumstantial. If you are charged with sexual cyberharassment, maintain your right to silence and hire Mike G Law.

Call Former Sex Crimes Prosecutor Mike G Law Today!

If you’ve been charged with sexual cyberharassment, contact Mike G Law. With law enforcement cracking down on sex crimes, too many innocent people are being ensnared in their web. Don’t be one of them.

Make sure your rights are protected by a lawyer who will fight for you.

As a former sex crimes prosecutor, Mike G Law understands the other side. It’s an advantage that he uses on behalf of his clients. Call today for an appointment.