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'Revenge porn' bill passes House with lesser penalty

Published: Saturday, July 4 2015 8:30 a.m. MDT

A bill criminalizing what's commonly called A bill criminalizing what's commonly called "revenge porn" — the sharing of intimate photos or videos without permission — was approved by the House Friday, but not before the severity of the punishment was lessened for a first offense. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill criminalizing what's commonly called "revenge porn" — the sharing of intimate photos or videos without permission — was approved by the House Friday, but not before the severity of the punishment was lessened for a first offense.

HB71 was criticized by some representatives for making a violation a third-degree felony. The bill was amended to make a first offense a less serious class A misdemeanor. A second, separate incident could still be a third-degree felony.

"This is a new frontier," the bill's sponsor, Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, said of the ease of sharing images electronically. Poulson said she has been "horrified" to hear what happens when the images are distributed to family, friends and others.

But Rep. Richard Greenwood, R-Roy, said a couple who is involved in such actions create the problem themselves by both agreeing to take photos or videos that show them in compromising positions.

"I'm a little miffed that somebody creates a problem and they want government to fix it," Greenwood said. He also said the penalty in the bill, a third-degree felony, was "rather high."

Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, had similar concerns about the penalty as well as how difficult it would be to prove the people releasing the photos or videos intended to cause harm to their former partners.

The amendment to reduce the penalty to a misdemeanor on a first offense initially came from Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, a co-sponsor of the bill. Hall said he understood his colleagues' concern with severity of the punishment.

Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield, a former presiding judge, spoke in support of the bill.

McIff said the questions raised about the bill shouldn't give lawmakers pause. Instead, he said, they should consider how they'd feel "if this was a child of any of us doing something foolish and having it come back to haunt them."

The bill was approved 68-6 and now goes to the Senate.

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