One of the most disturbing uses of the Internet is revenge porn — harassing or seeking to extort payment from someone by threatening to release intimate images of the victim online. Nebraska fortunately has caught up to other states by putting two new laws on the books.
The new statutes, approved by the Legislature and Gov. Pete Ricketts, criminalize such online abuse and allow lawsuits against those who commit such offenses. The laws are well crafted, thanks to careful deliberative work in the just-concluded legislative session by the sponsoring state senators and the Judiciary Committee.
These are welcome laws that greatly serve the public interest. They make clear the range of applicable circumstances and penalties for this offense. Local prosecutors, judges and school administrators should find the new statutes particularly helpful, since they clear up major gaps in Nebraska law on the subject.
Legislative Bill 630 by State Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln creates the offense of distributing a private image of another person’s intimate area or sexual conduct. A first offense would be a Class I misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison, a $1,000 fine or both. Those convicted of second and subsequent offenses will be guilty of Class IV felonies. Such offenders face up to two years in prison with 12 months post-release supervision, a $10,000 fine or both.
Morfeld’s bill also creates the offense of threatening to distribute intimate images with the intent to intimidate, threaten or harass a person, a Class I misdemeanor. The new law provides an affirmative defense for juveniles who distribute an image knowingly and voluntarily provided by another juvenile who is within four years of age of the defendant.
A victim of such exploitation can seek damages under another new law, Legislative Bill 680 by State Sen. Wendy DeBoer of Bennington. If the actual damages cannot be determined, the court can award reasonable presumed damages, not to exceed $10,000, against each defendant.
Lawmakers have done fine work in placing these measures in state law. Nebraska is right to put offenders on notice for this appalling action, empowering prosecutors to see that justice is rendered.