Sen. Schwank's Intimate Partner Harassment Bill Clears Committee

Legislation introduced by Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) that would make Pennsylvania the third state in the country to criminalize so-called “revenge porn” cleared a key state panel today.

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to send Schwank’s Senate Bill 1167 to the floor after approving an amendment that changed the proposed grading of the offense in cases involving minor victims and excluded its application in cases that could be prosecuted under the state “sexting” law, which was enacted in 2012.

With the amended proposal, the offense of Intimate Partner Harassment would carry a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine in cases involving victims who are minors and up to two years and $5,000 when the victim is an adult.

“It’s an important step forward to protect people from having their lives and reputations injured or ruined by a bitter former intimate,” Schwank said. “Posting these images has serious consequences for victims. It should, and under this proposal would, have serious consequences for an offender.”

Under the bill, a person who with no legitimate purpose and without consent exposes to a third person a photograph or similar image of the offender’s intimate partner nude or explicitly engaged in a sexual act, with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm him or her, would commit the crime of intimate partner harassment.

Schwank noted her work with prosecutors, victims and First Amendment advocates to craft a proposal that avoids the constitutional concerns raised in other states.

New Jersey and, recently, California have so far criminalized the acts, and other states, including New York, Rhode Island and Delaware, are currently considering how to do it.