Minnesota Adopts Revenge Porn Law – What You Need To Know



On August 1, 2016, Minnesota will adopt a revenge porn law, joining Washington, DC and 34 other states with similar laws. Although not necessarily motivated by revenge, this law makes it a crime to “disseminate private sexual images of another without consent or solicit sex on behalf of another person without consent.”

This is a new section of law that provides a civil cause of action against someone who distributes photos, recordings, films or videos (referred to generally as “images”) of someone other than themselves who is partially or fully nude or engaged in a sex act without the consent of the person to distribute the images, particularly if the person had a reasonable expectation of privacy. This does not include sending the image to the person in the image or “publishing the photo or video through any publicly available medium.”

Two civil causes of action are created by this law:

  • Nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images – as described above, the person in the image did not consent to allowing anyone to distribute images of themselves nude, partially nude or committing a sexual act. In addition, it is not a defense if the person permitted the images to be taken. Also, a person in the image must be identifiable by either information accompanying the image or in the image itself.
  • Nonconsensual sexual solicitation – this action is created if the person sending the image is offering a “sexual invitation” on behalf of another person without that person’s consent, causing the other person to feel harassed, frightened, intimidated, oppressed, persecuted or threatened.

The law goes on to provide damages for:

  • Financial losses caused by distribution of the images
  • Pain, suffering, mental anguish
  • Amount equal to any profit made by the distribution of the images
  • Court fees and costs
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Specific damages

The court may award the plaintiff a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for damages. Courts may also issue a restraining order and a fine could be imposed of up to $1,000 per day for failure to comply with the restraining order. Although civil actions are usually public, this law allows plaintiffs to request that their private information and identity be protected from the public.

Tiered penalties can also be created if certain other factors exist, including:

  • Financial loss suffered by victim
  • Images are distributed with intent to harass
  • Images are distributed for profit
  • Images are posted online
  • Images are stolen
  • Accused party has previous convictions under Minnesota Statute chapter 617

If there are no other aggravating factors, the accused may be charged with a gross misdemeanor; with one aggravating factor present, the charge may be a three-year felony.

Under the revenge porn law, the state can still prosecute a person for “conduct that constitutes any other crime,” such as (but not limited to) pornographic work involving minors.

Nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images and/or nonconsensual sexual solicitation have been added to or modified other definitions and statutes, including:

  • Qualified domestic violence-related offense (QDVRO)
  • Coercion
  • Attempt to coerce
  • Harassment restraining order
  • Stalking crimes
  • Criminal defamation

Liabilities are limited under certain circumstances, such as when the image is transmitted to report a crime, when the exposure (whether nudity or a sexual act) was in a public place, when the image is transmitted for a lawful public purpose, when the image is distributed for scientific research or educational purposes, in the case of artistic productions, or when the image is being used in a legal proceeding or is protected by a court order.

The new law applies to crimes committed on or after August 1, 2016, and either the plaintiff or defendant must live in Minnesota. There are additional limits, exemptions and exceptions with the law, so it’s important to speak to a knowledgeable attorney; contact us for help.

Disclaimer: The content of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact Jennifer Speas to discuss the specifics of your case.