TESTIMONY OF THE DIVISION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE
IN SUPPORT OF:
H.B. No. 5056 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING THE UNLAWFUL DISSEMINATION OF INTIMATE IMAGES.
JOINT COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
February 21, 2020
Division of Criminal Justice Summary - H.B. No. 5056 (PDF File, Size 772K)
The Division of Criminal Justice respectfully requests the Committee’s JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT for H.B. No. 5056, An Act Concerning the Unlawful Dissemination of Intimate Images. This bill was first proposed by the Division in the 2019 session and is again among our Legislative Recommendations to the General Assembly for this year’s session as it remains an important public safety measure that will assist in protecting motorists and other users of our roadways.
Sexual exploitation online has been a constant presence. The prevalence and invasiveness of non-consensual pornography (NCP) has grown and expanded from unauthorized sharing of intimate images (“revenge porn”) to the criminal enterprise of “sextortion.” These crimes do not discriminate based upon sex, age or gender. Also, like child pornography, once an image is posted on the internet, the images and personal information of the victims can never be fully removed. Despite common belief that such crimes affect only teenagers and young adults, studies on victimization of non-consensual pornography and sextortion have shown that 15.8 percent of all female and 9.3percent of all male social media users have been victimized or threatened with dissemination of NCP, with a total of 4 percent of all internet users in the United States either having “sensitive images” of themselves posted online without their consent, or had someone threaten to post “sensitive images” of them without their consent.
Offender studies related to the dissemination of non-consensual pornography have shown that increased penalties including harsher punishment have a significant deterrent effect on potential offenders.
- 60 percent said they would have stopped if they knew they had to register as a sex offender.
- 55 percent said they would have stopped if they knew they could be imprisoned for sending NCP.
- More than 51 percent said they would have stopped if they knew it was a felony, as compared to only 45 percent saying they would have stopped if they knew it was a misdemeanor.
This demonstrates that increased penalties related to these offenses do have a noticeable effect, particularly when classifying the offense as a felony, as opposed to a misdemeanor.
Classifying the dissemination of intimate images to more than one person via an interactive computer system as a class D felony will serve the significant public interest in combatting the growing threat of dissemination of non-consensual pornography and sextortion. Currently, 24 states (including Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Rhode Island) classify dissemination of NCP and sextortion related activities as a felony. Other states classifying the offense as a misdemeanor include provisions increasing the offense to a felony in certain circumstances, including if the victim was under 21 years old, if the offender is a repeat offender or if the offender sought financial gain. Several states also include the act of threatening dissemination of NCP (without actual dissemination) as a criminal offense.
Classifying an offense committed under subsection (c)(2) of the proposed legislation would bring parity between C.G.S. §53a-189c and other similar offenses involving the illegal dissemination of personal information or illicit images, including:
- C.G.S. §53a-90a – Enticing a Minor (via interactive computer service) – D felony
- C.G.S. §53a-129d – Identity Theft in the Third Degree – D felony
- C.G.S. §53a-129e – Trafficking in Personal Identifying Information – D felony
- C.G.S. §53a-189a – Voyeurism – D felony
- C.G.S. §53a-198b – Dissemination of Voyeuristic Materials – D felony
- C.G.S. §53a-196 – Obscenity as to Minors – D felony
- C.G.S. §53a-196f – Possession of Child Pornography in the Third Degree – D felony
Even with an elevation of certain provisions of C.G.S. §53a-189c from a class A misdemeanor to a class D felony, sufficient safeguards exist within the Connecticut criminal justice system to prevent the disproportionate punishment of adolescent and young adult offenders:
- Pursuant to C.G.S. Title 46b, Chapter 815t, offenders under the age of 18 years old will be referred to juvenile court, which include the safeguards of closed proceedings and confidential sealed/expunged records
- Pursuant to C.G.S. §54-56e, offenders 18 years of age or older are eligible for pretrial diversion under the Accelerated Pretrial Rehabilitation program, resulting a dismissal of charges and expungement of offense upon successful completion of the diversionary period
- Pursuant to subsection (c)(1) of the proposed legislation, discretion exists to charge the offender with a class A misdemeanor, or alternatively charge the offender under C.G.S. §53a-196h if the offender is under the age of 18 years of age.
Classifying the dissemination of intimate images to more than one person via an interactive computer system as a class D felony will reflect the increasing threat of victimization of minors and the significant lasting harm done to the victims, serve the significant public interest in combatting the growing threat of dissemination of non-consensual pornography and sextortion, and sufficient safeguards exist within the criminal justice system to minimize disproportionate effects on offenders. As such, the Division of Criminal Justice supports H.B. 5056 and respectfully recommends the Committee’s JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT. We thank the Committee for affording this opportunity to provide input on this matter and would be happy to provide any additional information the Committee might require or to answer any questions that you might have.